Two young children and their great-grandmother were reportedly still missing late Friday as the Carr Fire continued to devastate Northern California in the area near Redding, about 100 miles south of the Oregon border.
The Carr Fire was one of at least 16 significant blazes burning across the state amid high summer temperatures and dry conditions, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Two firefighters were killed in the Carr Fire on Thursday, bringing the total number of firefighters killed in the state this season to three, the newspaper reported.
In Redding, some 500 homes and other structures were believed to have been destroyed, with as many as 5,000 in the area still threatened.
Emily Roberts, 5, her brother James Roberts, 4, and their great-grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, 70, haven't been seen since Thursday night, when fire reached their Redding home, a friend of the family told the Chronicle.
Donald Kewley said he called Bledsoe's house as the flames drew nearer.
"She was screaming, 'It's getting closer!'" Kewley told the Chronicle. "Then the phone went dead."
On Friday, Kewley said he and Bledsoe's husband tried to find out what happened to the children and their great-grandmother, but had no luck.
One of the firefighters killed Thursday was identified as fire inspector Jeremy Stoke, the Record Searchlight of Redding reported. The other was a contract bulldozer operator, whose name was not released.
The fatalities brought this month's death toll to three, after Braden Varney died July 14 while fighting a separate fire near Yosemite National Park.
The Carr Fire, which broke out Monday from a mechanical issue involving a vehicle, expanded Thursday when erratic flames swept through the historic Gold Rush town of Shasta and nearby Keswick, then cast the Sacramento River in an orange glow as they jumped the banks into Redding.
By Thursday night, the blaze entered Redding from the northwest and pushed out 37,000 residents.
The deadly heat has created tornado-like “fire whirls,” said Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott, who is imploring residence to evacuate.
“These are extreme conditions,” Pimlott said. “This is how fires are burning in California. We need to take heed. Evacuate. Evacuate. Evacuate.”
“These are extreme conditions. This is how fires are burning in California. We need to take heed. Evacuate. Evacuate. Evacuate.”
Mark Ghilarducci, director for the state office of Emergency Services said the fire conditions that have swept through California were unprecedented.
In the Redding area, entire neighborhoods have been left smoldering, while 37,000 people were under evacuation orders.
In the nearby town of Keswick, only a handful of homes remained.
Elsewhere in California, large fires continued to burn outside Yosemite National Park and in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles near Palm Springs.
Yosemite Valley has been closed since July 25 because of a massive wildfire that has grown to nearly 72 square miles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.