Bulldozer Operator Dies Battling Carr Fire, 3 Firefighters Hurt

Firefighters regroup while battling the Carr Fire in Shasta Calif. on Thursday

Thousands of people have been forced to flee - including TV presenters while on air - after a wildfire tore through an area of northern California, killing a bulldozer operator as he fought to contain the blaze.

Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said the Carr Fire in Shasta County is "taking everything down in its path", having already burned dozens of homes in the communities of Shasta, Keswick and the west side of Redding on Thursday night, adding that Redding residents had little warning try to evacuate.

A private hire bulldozer operator, who was not identified, died Thursday while also battling the fire.

The operator, who has not been identified, is the state's second fire-related death in recent weeks.

Just before dawn, the flames had gotten close enough that they were about to evacuate when the fire changed direction and began burning to the north, he said.

By midnight Thursday, the Carr Fire had burned almost 30,000 acres in Shasta County and was just 6 percent contained, according to data from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

More than 1,700 firefighters are battling the blaze, Cal Fire said in an evening advisory. The California National Guard is helping with the firefight, McLean told CNN.

At least 15 homes had been destroyed, five damaged but a walk through at least one neighborhood revealed dozens more reduced to ash and rubble. A Cal Fire spokesman could only confirm portions of west Redding were under evacuation. "This fire is out of control!", the California Highway Patrol said in a Facebook post Thursday night urging residents to evacuate.

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Officials have closed Highway 299 in Redding at Buenaventura Boulevard to westbound traffic.

"We've been here live and right now we are being evacuated".

"We are going to leave the station because it is now unsafe to be here".

Redding hospital has been evacuated - with at least five infants being rushed out and some babies being airlifted to hospitals in Sacramento.

The hospital is not under a mandatory evacuation order, but the infants are being evacuated because of the time and intense resources needed to relocate them. Flames avoided Idyllwild resident Suzanna Croffer's home, but her neighbor was not so lucky. "The Cranston Fire is under Unified Command between the USFS San Bernardino National Forest, CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, Idyllwild Fire Protection District and the Riverside County Sheriffs Office".

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Thursday for Riverside and Shasta counties in response to fires.

The so-called Carr Fire was just one of several wildfires that have dispatched firefighters to all corners of the state amid an oppressive heat wave. The Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park, which has charred 45,911 acres (18,500 hectares), was 29 percent contained.

Brandon McGlover, 32, will appear in court today accused of setting a massive blaze that engulfed 4,700 acres of countryside, as well as four other fires.

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