Two young children and their great-grandmother died in a wildfire that swept across a Northern California city with devastating speed, their family said Saturday, bringing the death toll to five people.
A tearful Sherry Bledsoe confirmed the deaths of her grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, 70, and her children, James Roberts, 5, and Emily Roberts, 4, in the fire that raged into Redding, Calif.
"My babies are dead," Sherry said after she and family members met with Shasta County sheriff's deputies, according to KTVU Fox 2 of Northern California.
Amanda Woodley, Melody’s granddaughter, shared her grief in a public Facebook post.
“The family that lives in town are all together mourning 3 amazing souls,” Woodley wrote. “My heart is crushed(.) I can't believe this is real(.) I just keep seeing all of their beautiful faces.”
Woodley wrote the post also after leaving the sheriff’s office, describing her grandmother’s heroism.
“Grandma did everything she could to save them (James and Emily),” Woodley wrote. “She was hovered over them both with a wet blanket.”
The Bledsoes lived near the Keswick Estates neighborhood, and their home, like many around it, was reduced to ashes. The tragedy leaves Ed Bledsoe without his wife and the great-grandchildren he doted on.
“That woman was the best woman I ever seen and them two kids was absolutely angels,” Ed said in sheriff’s office with three generations of his family around him, according to the Sacramento Bee. “They done everything for Grandma and Grandpa -- everything.”
“That woman was the best woman I ever seen and them two kids was absolutely angels. They done everything for Grandma and Grandpa -- everything.”
The Bledsoe family’s fatalities brought the death toll to five since the so-called Carr Fire started burning Monday into Redding, about 100 miles south of the Oregon border. It exploded Thursday, jumped the Sacramento River and entered the city limits.
A bulldozer operator who died working to contain the fire was identified as Don Ray Smith of Pollock Pines, a small community east of Sacramento, according to the Shasta County Sheriff's Department.
He was overtaken by flames while on the job and his body was found Thursday.
Redding Fire Department Inspector Jeremy Stoke was killed on the job Thursday night.
The three victims of the Bledsoe family were among more than a dozen people reported missing, Fox 2 reported.
Ed Bledsoe had headed out for supplies Thursday thinking the flames were far away, but while shopping he received a desperate call from his great-grandson. The boy said he had to come back to the home.
"We need your help," the boy said as flames were closing in, according to Jason Decker, who is the boyfriend of another Bledsoe granddaughter.
Ed rushed home, but was turned back by police. The fire was raging and there were walls of flames.
“I’d give my life for them,” he said, according to the Bee. “I just don’t know what I’ve done wrong, I get two little angels like that and I leave them in the damn fire.”
Decker drove his motorcycle to the home Friday to look for members of the family to no avail.
A day later, the smoldering remains of the Bledsoe property was surrounded with crime scene tape.
"I don't even have any more tears to cry," Decker said. "But I keep finding them."
Decker said his own children played with James and Emily and they had trick-or-treated together.
Don Kewley, whose girlfriend is one of the Bledsoes' granddaughters, sympathized with Ed.
"He lost everything. Everything. You can't lose more than family. And then you lose everything on top of that?" Kewley said. "The man's got the shirt on his back and the pants on his waist. Like that's it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.