Tensions and temperatures were running high in a small neighborhood southwest of downtown Redding, which was devastated by the Carr fire.
A spot fire in the hills above Cedars Road drew a constant buzz of helicopters and the loudspeaker of a police cruiser telling residents to leave immediately.
“We got what we could get,” said Brad Sousa, who lives within easy view of the area from which thick white smoke poured Friday afternoon.
“This is huge,” said Crystal Harper, who stood in her driveway with the car packed as her neighbors ran frantically back and forth to their houses to gather belongings before evacuating.
“I’ve just kept watching things,” Harper said. “And it’s time.”
One man, who said he was trying to get to the home of his girlfriend and her mother, seemed frozen in his frustration as police lines blocked the roads into a nearby hilly neighborhood.
Steve Rice, who has lived in the west Redding neighborhood for some 55 years, watched as the young man kept driving and stopping — unsure of how to proceed.
“There’s all kinds of people walking around that shouldn’t even be here,” said Rice, who had garden hoses water down his RV camper that was being left alongside his house.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen,” he said as his eyes darted back and forth down the road, quickly filling with a stream of cars moving to the south and away from police lines and the vulnerable ridge of bone-dry grasses.
Temperatures by early afternoon had hit 101 degrees, with the high for the day forecast at 109.
One woman, who declined to give her name but lived just down Cedars Road from Rice, said her husband was too sick to leave their house. A nearby resident could be heard yelling at a neighbor, wondering why he hadn’t made preparations to leave.
Rice, who had family members sitting in a nearby vehicle ready to caravan away with him, admitted he was leaving valuable items that couldn’t be gathered up quickly enough to outrun the fast-moving blaze.
One item he left intentionally, though, was an American flag flying on a pole just to the side of his front door. It was a message of sorts to firefighters in the event things turned dire on his street by the end of the day.
“Hopefully they’ll see that and protect it,” he said of the flag.