REDDING, Calif. — The catastrophic Carr fire blazed a path of devastation, becoming the 7th most destructive fire in California history as it burned more than 1,100 structures and left six people dead.
The fire, which started more than a week ago, has burned 103,772 acres — scorching an area bigger than the size of Denver.
The Carr fire is burning so large and intensely that it created its own localized weather system, making it difficult for experts to predict which way the blaze will spread. Wildfires like this can get so hot they make pyrocumulus clouds, formations that look like mushroom clouds and can be seen for miles.
Smoke from the massive blaze and another California fire burning near Yosemite National Park, called the Ferguson Fire, could be seen in satellite images.
As of Monday night, the Carr fire was just 23% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.
More than 3,300 fire personnel are battling the flames in triple-digit heat, shifting winds, dry fuel and steep terrain — all conditions stacked against their efforts.
The fire has claimed six lives, including two involved in the firefighting efforts and four residents.
Jeremy Stoke, a fire inspector with the Redding Fire Department, and an unidentified private-hire bulldozer operator died Thursday. A 70-year-old woman, Melody Bledsoe and her two great-grandchildren died when their house was overcome by flames.
Another person was found dead after a fire consumed another house, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said Sunday.
And at least 19 people were still reported missing in Shasta County, California, officials said at a community meeting Monday evening.
The fire began July 23 when a vehicle suffered a mechanical failure, according to Cal Fire.
California struggles with destructive, large fires
The Carr Fire is one of 17 large fires burning in California, which is straining firefighting resources amid multiple states of emergencies.
“What we’re seeing in California right now is more destructive, larger fires burning at rates that we have historically never seen,” Jonathan Cox, a battalion chief and public information officer with with Cal Fire, told CNN.
The Carr fire last week, aided by a weather anomaly “just exploded the rate of spread of the fire that we have not seen before,” he said.
So far, it has destroyed at least 1,132 structures — of which 818 are residential.
Josh Lister and his family lost their home and belongings after the fire swept through Redding, California, a community of nearly 100,000 people.
“It looked like an atomic bomb went off,” Lister said of damage to the home.
“After the fact, we got a few pictures …. from friends, but it was a firestorm when we left,” he said said.