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At least 8 dead as wildfires continue to rage across California

Firefighters are battling 17 wildfires across the state, which have consumed more than 200,000 acres combined in terrain stretching from Southern California to the Oregon border

Authorities on Monday were hoping that a slight break in the heat this week could help them gain control of a number of wildfires that have so far scorched more than 200,000 acres and killed eight people across California.

The Carr fire, which erupted in Shasta County a week ago and spread into the city of Redding, grew to 103,772 acres and was 23% contained as of Monday evening. The fire has destroyed more than 1,000 structures and claimed six lives, including a fire inspector, a bulldozer operator, a great-grandmother and her two great-grandchildren. Two other deaths have been attributed to the Ferguson fire near Yosemite.

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“The terrain is just awful and difficult to access, it’s just inaccessible in a lot of areas,” Dominic Polito, a spokesman for fire authorities, said of the Carr fire. “If you were to walk up it, you’d be looking at your knee on every step.”

The focus Monday will be to prevent the fire from spreading farther into Trinity County, Polito said.

“Firefighters worked through the night to build control lines. Today crews will work to mitigate potential spot fires as shifting winds, dry fuels and steep drainages exist below control lines,” according to an incident report on the Carr fire.

(L.A. Times Graphics)

Some evacuations were lifted in Redding on Monday morning, but mandatory evacuations remained in place in Shasta and Trinity counties, and authorities are warning people to stay away from blocked off areas. In Redding, law enforcement agencies patrolled the 17 square miles that were vacant over the weekend and arrested two men Sunday night on charges of unauthorized entry into an enclosed area, according to Redding police.

Authorities also arrested two other people Sunday afternoon in Shasta County on suspicion of looting, after deputies found that the front door to a home had been forced open in an evacuated area, and electronic items were stacked by the door, according to a Shasta County sheriff’s statement.

An infrared satellite image from July 29 shows the burn area northwest of Redding. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company.
An infrared satellite image from July 29 shows the burn area northwest of Redding. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company. (Jon Schleuss / Los Angeles Times)

Redding residents Jack Fannin, 19, and Jade Ball, 25, were arrested and booked at Shasta County Jail.

Two fires in Mendocino County — the River and Ranch fires — also continued to grow Monday. Combined, they covered more than 68,000 acres, with 5% containment by Monday evening. Firefighters battled “extreme” fire weather throughout the night, and “weather conditions will continue to challenge firefighters as hot, dry and windy conditions persist,” according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection incident report.

Weather over the Carr fire around Redding, as well as over the two fires in Mendocino County, was expected to be hot and dry Monday, with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s above the Carr fire and in the low 90s in Mendocino County, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Cory Mueller.

Though the fires are not wind-driven, expected gusts up to 20 mph Monday afternoon could affect firefighting efforts in both areas, Mueller said.

By midweek, forecasters expect temperatures to drop slightly, though it will still be hot, Mueller said.

The massive Ferguson fire that has accounted for two firefighter deaths and prompted the closure of portions of nearby Yosemite National Park, grew to 57,041 acres, and remained 30% contained.

Authorities lifted some evacuations in Mariposa on and around East Westfall Road, warning that they could be placed under mandatory evacuation again if conditions change.

Authorities announced Sunday that Capt. Brian Hughes, of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots, was struck and killed by a falling tree when his crew was “preparing tactical firing operations,” Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks said in a statement.

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“Hughes was with the Arrowhead Hotshots for four years and will be dearly missed by everyone at the parks. We grieve his loss.”

In Southern California, the Cranston fire near Idyllwild was 82% contained Monday, after burning 13,139 acres last week.

The fires have also affected air quality across the region, including areas of Nevada.

“Fires in California and western Nevada continue to produce heavy amounts of smoke region wide. While air quality is worse closer to fires… all western Nevada and Sierra valley locations are experiencing diminished air quality to some degree,” according to a National Weather Service alert from Reno.

Word that police had arrested possible looters near the Carr fire had shaken some area residents.

Lake Redding resident James Anderson had placed multiple motion sensors throughout his yellow wood-frame home on Hartland Drive. “I put one by the porch so that I know who’s coming,” he said Monday. “I put one on the side gate. The other day it had been left open and I had it closed.”

Anderson, 74, said home burglaries are already a problem in the area. Although evacuations were ordered for his neighborhood, Anderson said he decided to stay behind to make sure his home was safe. He said firefighters brought him cans of soup during the first few nights of the fire, but now his food supply was dwindling.

He’s now contemplating using his mountain bike to take side trails into town to pick up food and sneak back in. He’s not sure what will happen if he runs into any authorities. “If they hassle me, I’m just going to tell them to go to hell,” Anderson said.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.

9:45 p.m.: This article was updated with new fire figures.

1:45 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Anderson.

10:30 a.m.: This article was updated with information about evacuation orders.

This article was originally published at 9:05 a.m.

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