Northern California blaze leaves 16 still missing

REDDING, Calif., July 31 (Reuters) - Firefighters in northern California took advantage of calmer winds on Tuesday in their drive to surround a deadly blaze raging for over a week around the city of Redding, as police searched for 16 people listed as missing in the wildfire.

The Carr Fire has claimed six confirmed fatalities since Thursday, when gale-force winds whipped the blaze into a cyclone of flames that jumped a river and roared with little warning into Redding, 160 miles (260 km) north of the state capital Sacramento.

Whole neighborhoods, including the nearby town of Keswick, were laid to waste as residents fled in a frantic race against the encroaching conflagration.

Among the dead were two firefighters, as well as two young children who perished with their great-grandmother as they huddled under a wet blanket while their house went up in smoke.

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Devastating images from California's Carr fire
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Devastating images from California's Carr fire
Hills are bare after being burned in the Carr Fire near Igo, California, U.S. July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong
Smoke from the Carr Fire shrouds the Clear Creek Bridge near Igo, California, U.S. July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
REDDING, CA - JULY 30: Forest burns in the Carr Fire on July 30, 2018 west of Redding, California. Six people have died in the massive fire, which has burned over 100,000 acres and forced thousands to evacuate since it began on July 23. (Photo by Terray Sylvester/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Firefighter Shawn Lee (R) from the Lake Forest unit and his colleagues try to contain flames from the Carr fire as it spreads towards the town of Douglas City near Redding, California on July 30, 2018. - Thousands of firefighters in California made some progress against several large-scale blazes that have turned close to 200,000 acres (80,940 hectares) into an ashen wasteland, destroyed expensive homes, and killed eight fire personnel and civilians in the most populous US state. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Crews from CalFire and the Whitewood Volunteer Fire Department battle a flare-up near Buckhorn, Calif., on Highway 299 during the Carr fire in Shasta-Trinity counties on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
Fire fighter Wyatt Belden from Gold Ridge Fire Protection in Sonoma County, monitors a fire burning off Keck Road, just west of Lakeport, Calif., on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
A house burns during the Mendocino Complex fire near Finley, California on July 30, 2018. - Thousands of firefighters in California made some progress against several large-scale blazes that have turned close to 200,000 acres into an ashen wasteland, destroyed expensive homes, and killed eight fire personnel and civilians in the most populous US state. The worst blaze, northern California's Carr Fire, has killed six people since Thursday, including a 70-year-old woman and her two great-grandchildren aged four and five. They perished when flames swallowed their home in Redding. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 28: A home continues to burn after the Carr Fire moved through the area on July 28, 2018 in Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 80,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 28: A deer stands on a road covered with fire retardant as the Carr Fire burns in the area on July 28, 2018 near Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 80,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Trees burst into flame during the Carr fire near Whiskeytown, California on July 27, 2018. Two firefighters have died and more than 100 homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Burned down vehicles sit at a property under a deep orange sky during the Carr fire near Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - Two firefighters have died and more than 100 homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A motorcycle sits next to a home that was destroyed by the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CA - JULY 27: Smoke from the Carr Fire hangs over Whiskeytown Lake on July 27, 2018 in Whiskeytown, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A view of cars that were destroyed by the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - An inmate firefighter pauses during a firing operation as the Carr fire continues to burn in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - One person has died and at least two others have been injured as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A charred neighborhood destroyed by the Carr Fire is seen west of Redding, California, U.S. July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
REDDING, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018: A home is destroyed by wildfire in Redding, Calif., on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SHASTA, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018: Dead fish lay in a pond water wildfire swept through and destroyed homes in Shasta, Calif., on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018: Wildfire destroyed and sunk boats docked at the marina in Whiskeytown, Calif., on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CA - JULY 28: A Cal Fire truck drives along highway 299 as the Carr Fire burns in the hills on July 28, 2018 neat Whiskeytown, California. A Redding firefighter and a bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 80,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A destroyed car is seen among the ruins of a burned neighborhood after the Carr fire passed through the area of Lake Keswick Estates near Redding, California on July 28, 2018. - The US federal government approved aid Saturday for California as thousands of firefighters battled to contain a series of deadly raging wildfires that have killed six people and destroyed hundreds of buildings. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CA - JULY 27: Smoke rises from the Carr Fire as it burns along highway 299 on July 27, 2018 near Whiskeytown, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Nearly 900 homes and 300 other buildings were burned, and authorities have said additional victims might be found as search teams pick through the ruins of a wildfire that state officials now rank as the seventh most destructive in California history.

On Tuesday, five days after the Redding fire storm, law enforcement officials were trying to account for 16 people listed as missing, according to Redding police Sergeant Todd Cogle.

He said the number has fluctuated in recent days, from as few as seven to as many as 26, as some of the missing turned up safe and others were added to the list.

Meanwhile, some 3,600 firefighters arrayed against the blaze made steady progress with help from a second day of diminished winds.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) reported 27 percent of the fire's perimeter corralled by containment lines - up from 5 percent during much of the past week - even as the footprint of scorched landscape grew to 110,000 acres (45,000 hectares).

In another positive sign, evacuees in some areas have been allowed to return home since Sunday, though as many as 37,000 still remained displaced.

Lighter winds also gave a boost on Tuesday to some 2,000 firefighters battling a pair of fires burning about 30 miles apart at the southern end of Mendocino National Forest, where an estimated 12,200 people were under mandatory evacuation orders.

Those blazes, dubbed the Ranch and the River fires, have charred more than 74,000 acres (30,000 hectares), with containment measured at 12 percent for the two together.

The Carr Fire stands as the most formidable of 94 wildfires burning across 13 U.S. Western states, from Texas to Alaska, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

California, with 17 large active blazes reported, has been one of the hardest hit, with a volatile mix of triple digit-temperatures, erratic winds and drought-parched vegetation fueling intense wildfire activity. (Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen in New York Editing by Bill Tarrant, Jonathan Oatis and Chris Reese)

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