LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A mechanic helping to fight one of several major wildfires in California died in a traffic collision on Thursday, bringing the death toll from that blaze to eight, officials said.
A satellite image shows the River fire at the Mendocino Complex wildfire in California, U.S., August 6, 2018. Picture taken on August 6, 2018. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company/Handout via REUTERS
The mechanic was assigned to the Carr Fire burning around Redding in Northern California and died in a crash on Highway 99 in nearby Tehama County, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.
The CalFire statement did not name the mechanic nor provide more details.
The 176,000-acre (71,224-hectare) Carr Fire, roughly 200 miles (322 km) north of San Francisco, has killed two other firefighters along with three members of one family and has destroyed nearly 1,100 homes. It was 48 percent contained with firefighters struggling in steep terrain to control the blaze, CalFire said.
Nine other major fires are burning in California, including the Mendocino Complex Fire north of San Francisco. The two fires close to each other are being treated as one event and now rank as the largest fire on record in the state. Altogether, the wildfires have displaced tens of thousands of people in California.
A force of more than 4,000 firefighters made progress overnight in controlling the Mendocino Complex Fire, which has burned more than 304,400 acres (123,000 hectares), Cal-Fire said on Thursday. Two firefighters have been injured and 119 homes destroyed by that fire.
Winds gusting up to 35 miles (56 km) an hour and temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 C) are forecast from Thursday afternoon to Saturday in northern California, the National Weather Service said in a Red Flag warning.
To the south, in the Cleveland National Forest area of Orange County near Los Angeles, the 9,600-acre (3,885-hectare) Holy Fire is 5 percent contained, the Cleveland National Forest said on Twitter on Thursday.
A 51-year-old man, Forrest Clark, arrested on suspicion of setting the fire was charged with multiple criminal counts including aggravated arson and making criminal threats, the Orange County District Attorney Office said in a statement on Thursday.
Clark, who faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted, was held on bail of $1 million and was expected to be arraigned in court on Thursday.
The Holy Fire has displaced 20,000 people, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.
Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Makini Brice in Washington, editing by Larry King and Susan Thomas