California wildfire claims lives of great-grandmother, two children and firefighters

Posted at 6:40 AM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 08:42:24-04

By Kelly McCleary, CNN

The fast-moving Carr Fire has claimed six lives as it tears through Northern California.

The fire doubled in size Saturday, growing to more than 83,800 acres while putting residents and firefighters in harm’s way.

A great-grandmother, two children and two men working to contain the blaze are among the dead. Another person was found after the fire consumed another home in Shasta County, Sheriff Tom Bosenko said in a Sunday news conference.

Melody Bledsoe and her two great-grandchildren, Emily and James Roberts, died in the Carr Fire, family members said..

Woman dies trying to save her great-grandchildren

The desperate search for 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her great-grandchildren, Emily and James Roberts, came to a devastating end Saturday when relatives confirmed their bodies had been found in the family’s burned out home in Shasta County.

GoFundMe page set up by the children’s family said the three were last heard from Thursday as flames closed in on the neighborhood.

Family friend Jason Decker told CNN affiliate KGO that Bledsoe was found “draped over the children.”

“That just shows that she did everything she could ’til the very end,” Decker said.

Decker told KGO that 4-year-old Emily loved to play with other children in the area and “lit up the room.”

Five-year-old James idolized his great-grandfather, Decker said, and wanted to wear suspenders and use a chainsaw just like him.

Ed Bledsoe, who lost his wife and great-grandchildren, told CNN’s Dan Simon he was out running errands when flames engulfed his home. He had only been gone a little longer than 15 minutes and he didn’t realize the fire was spreading into his neighborhood.

CNN affiliate KGO said a gas line burst in the neighborhood, leaving the family little time to escape.

Bledsoe said he originally thought his family had been picked up and rescued by the sheriff’s department. It wasn’t until the next day that the bodies of his wife and great-grandchildren were found. Bledsoe said his wife had wrapped herself and the children in wet blankets.

“We didn’t know the fire was coming down there,” Bledsoe told Simon, adding that the family was not told to evacuate.

Firefighter dies on front lines

Jeremy Stoke, a fire inspector with the Redding Fire Department, died Thursday night, the Redding firefighters union said.

“Jeremy died while battling the Carr Fire,” the union said on Twitter. “We ask for your thoughts and prayers for his family and the RFD as we process this tragic loss.”

Stoke joined the Redding Fire Department in 2004 as an engineer and worked his way up to inspector, the union said.

He was killed while assisting with evacuations in Redding.

Bulldozer operator was first fatality

An unidentified bulldozer operator, hired privately, was killed while battling the flames Thursday, Cal Fire said.