Two Redding men were arrested Sunday night after they allegedly entered evacuated areas of the city, which is dealing with the aftermath of the Carr Fire, a deadly blaze that has reached almost 100,000 acres after surging into town Thursday night.
Local media identified the victims as Melody Bledsoe and the children, Emily Roberts and James Roberts, nicknamed "Junior".
Bledsoe's granddaughter, Amanda Woodley, said on Facebook the elderly woman desperately put a wet blanket over the children as their home burned.
"Grandma did everything she could to save them", Woodly wrote. "That's all I have to say".
Fire officials have said the behaviour of the Carr fire, the most deadly and destructive fire burning at the moment, was erratic and had burned more than 360 square kilometres of drought-parched vegetation since last Monday. The blazes have killed four firefighters in California in a little more than two weeks after officials reported on Sunday the death of a firefighter battling a wildfire by Yosemite National Park.
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The Carr wildfire was actually caused by the mechanical failure of a vehicle, according to the State authorities. Firefighters had been making progress containing it until Thursday night, when it began to quickly spread.
The Carr fire covers around 39,000hectares (95,000 acres) and was just 17 percent contained, the state authority Cal Fire said late on Sunday.
"We didn't think the fire was going to come here, so we didn't really take things out like everyone else that was scrambling at the last minute to get out when we saw fire on the ridge", Dominic Galvin said. "We are simply not getting a break". Some residents have since been allowed to return home. It was just 5 percent contained Sunday.
Between Friday night and Saturday morning, the fire doubled in size.
More than 50,000 people have been evacuated in the northern California wildfires, which have killed six people.
The fire broke out on July 23, 2018, which forced tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes.
The nearby community of Keswick, with a population of about 450, was reduced to cinders.
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"That's where we need to fly", Dominic Polito, of the Escondido Fire Department, said in a telephone interview.
Ed Bledsoe, who lost his wife and great-grandchildren, told CNN's Dan Simon he was out running errands when flames engulfed his home. The fire has prompted the closure of the most iconic areas of Yosemite National Park, which will reopen to all visitors August 3, officials said.
The GoFundMe page said the couple had been caring for their two great-grandchildren for years.
Wildfires have scorched nearly 4.3 million acres (1.7 million hectares) across the country so far this year, less than last year but more than the 3.7 million-acre (1.5 million-hectare) average for the same period over the last decade.
"We're feeling a lot more optimistic today as we're starting to gain some ground rather than being in a defensive mode on this fire all the time", said Bret Gouvea, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's incident commander on the blaze around Redding, a city about 370 kilometres north of San Francisco.
On Saturday, it pushed southwest of Redding, the largest city in the region, toward the tiny communities of Ono, Igo and Gas Point, where scorching heat, winds and bone-dry conditions complicated firefighting efforts.
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