The fire apparently began with the mechanical failure of a vehicle, fire officials said. Flames have consumed trees, houses and historic buildings in Shasta County for days and temporarily closed traffic along Highway 299. The fire has led to the evacuation of 38,000 residents within Shasta County and the burn area. The blaze doubled in size in only 12 hours. Previously, it ravaged the small communities of Shasta and Keswick before jumping the Sacramento River. Residents fled their homes ahead of the flames as officials ordered evacuations for parts of Redding, a city of 92,000. A TV station was evacuated during live broadcast. At least 500 homes, businesses and other structures have been destroyed. Another nearly 5,000 structures remain threatened, officials said. More than 3,400 people are working on the fire, including 328 engines, 17 helicopters and 62 bulldozers.
Gusty winds reaching 60 mph are fanning the flames and creating fire tornadoes. A private-hire bulldozer operator, who was not identified, died while battling the fire . Three firefighters from Marin County Fire were treated for burns. Eight people were treated for respiratory and burn-related injuries at Mercy Medical Center in Redding. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Thursday for Riverside and Shasta counties.