Thousands of firefighters struggle to contain giant blazes in California

S Carr Fire devastates Redding California

California is prone to wildfires. It is believed to be in the top 10 on the list of most destructive fires in the state's history.

Along with a bulldozer contract employee and a Redding firefighter killed in the Carr Fire, the captain of a wildland hotshots team and a Cal Fire heavy equipment operator have been killed in the Ferguson fire burning near Yosemite in Mariposa County.

Having scorched more than 121,000 acres (48,967 hectares), an area larger than New Orleans, the blaze was the biggest of 16 major wildfires burning throughout California and the most formidable of more than 90 across 13 Western states from Texas to Alaska.

- more than a quarter of what it has pegged for fires, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesperson Mike Mohler said Wednesday.

A fire whirl spawned by the Carr Fire carried wind speeds equivalent to an EF-3 tornado, the National Weather Service said on Thursday.

The Scotts Valley area, just west of town, remains under a mandatory evacuation order. "Throughout the day crews will continue to mitigate spot fire potential across control lines", it said.

"Repopulation is the theme", Gouvea said.

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Firefighters have said they're focusing on saving lives and homes. "It's a very emotional period".

As many as 38,000 residents were under evacuation orders at the height of the fire late last week.

There are 4,271 firefighters battling the blaze, as well as 369 fire engines, 69 fire crews, 17 helicopters, 125 bulldozers and 84 water trucks.

However, authorities who had feared there might be more casualties reported Wednesday that all those who had been reported missing had been located.

We'll leave you with a few more photos.

On Thursday, a special contingent of 100 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand took off from Sydney en route to USA assignments reinforcing exhausted fire crews in northern California, Oregon and Washington state.

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