An explosive wildfire tore through two small Northern California communities Thursday before reaching the city of Redding, killing a bulldozer operator on the fire lines, burning three firefighters, destroying dozens of homes, and forcing thousands to flee. Scott McLean, a CalFire spokesman for the crews battling the blaze, says flames swept through the communities of Shasta and Keswick before jumping the Sacramento River and reaching Redding, a city of about 92,000 people—the largest in the region. The Carr Fire is "taking down everything in its path," he says. "It's just a wall of flames. It's nonstop."
Late Thursday, crews found the body of a bulldozer operator who was hired privately to clear vegetation in the blaze's path, McLean says. The fire burned over the operator and his equipment, making the man the second bulldozer operator killed in a California blaze in less than two weeks, the AP reports. Three firefighters and an unknown number of civilians had burns, but the extent of their injuries wasn't immediately known, McLean says. "It's just chaotic. It's wild," he says. "There's a lot of fire, a lot of structures burning." He says many people in Redding didn't seem prepared for the blaze to reach their city. "When it hit, people were really scrambling," he says. "There was not much of a warning." (An alleged arsonist was arrested after a massive wildfire broke out in the southern part of the state.)