Officials say flat tire started deadly California wildfire

The Carr Fire spread toward the towns of Douglas City and Lewiston near Redding, Calif. (CNN Photo)

REDDING, Calif. (CNN) — It happens countless times on roads across the United States: a vehicle gets a flat tire as it’s driving along.

But on this road near Redding, California, when a tire failed last month on a trailer and its rim scraped the asphalt, the result proved to be catastrophic for an entire region.

The sparks that shot out July 23 from that minor incident, California fire officials said, ignited what is now the sixth-most destructive wildfire in state history.

The Carr Fire blazed a fiery path along Highway 299, lighting up mile after mile of dry brush as it crept up on residential areas.

The blazed turned everything it touched into ash, mangled metal and black embers, and is still burning nearly two weeks later. It’s killed six people, scorched nearly 134,000 acres — an area larger than Denver — and created its own weather system.

It caught residents by surprise

Ed Bledsoe lost his wife and their two great-grandchildren in the fire, all within 15 minutes.

The Shasta County resident had left home to see a doctor, unaware of the fire’s erratic movement. At the time, it had burned for three days, but away from his neighborhood.

While he was out, his wife, Melody Bledsoe, 70, called and told him the fire was getting closer to their home. She begged him to come get her and their great-grandchildren: Emily Roberts, 4, and James Roberts, 5.

James took the phone and pleaded with his great-grandfather to hurry up and save them.

“He just kept saying, ‘Grandpa, Come get me … come on, Grandpa,’ ” Ed Bledsoe said.

He dropped everything and rushed home. But the roads were congested and the heat and flames so intense, the area near his house was cordoned off. His wife and the two children were among the six people killed in the Carr Fire.

“I tried to call them back and it just went to nothing,” Bledsoe said as he wept. “Poor babies and my wife.”

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