The Carr Fire was reported on the afternoon of July 23, 2018, at the intersection of Highway 299 and Carr Powerhouse Road, in the Whiskeytown district of the Whiskeytown–Shasta–Trinity National Recreation Area, in Shasta County, California, near French Gulch. The fire was believed to have been started by a vehicle having mechanical failures, which ignited the ground and quickly spread. Hot conditions and steep, inaccessible terrain caused challenges for fire crews as they strengthened containment lines. Highway 299 was closed and French Gulch was placed under mandatory evacuation.
Overnight from July 25 to 26, the fire grew to 20,000 acres (8,094 ha) in total burned land. As of the evening of July 26, the fire had burned 28,763 acres (11,640 ha) and was 10 percent contained. It was reported to have destroyed 15 buildings and damaged 5, while remaining a threat to 496 buildings. The fire jumped the Sacramento River and portions of the western area of Redding were put under mandatory evacuation orders. Power to residents in North Redding was shut off by Redding Electric Utility. A state of emergency was declared by Governor Jerry Brown. The evacuation center at Shasta High School was relocated to Shasta College. A firefighter was killed while operating a bulldozer. The National Guard was called in to help fight the fire on the night of July 26.
The fire remained active overnight, with fire crews continuing to build containment lines. However, crews were stalled in their work due to the fire's extreme behavior. Just after midnight, evacuation orders were put in place for Shasta Dam, Summit City, and neighborhoods in western Redding. A second firefighter, Jeremy Stoke of the Redding Fire Department, was killed and it was reported that three firefighters from Marin County sustained burns. They were defending a structure when a heat blast from the flames came towards them. All three were released, with one being evaluated at the University of California Davis Burn Center for burns on his face, hands and ears.
By the evening of July 27, the fire had destroyed 500 structures and threatened almost 5,000. CrossPointe Community Church was named the third evacuation place. Amtrak announced that their Coast Starlight service would stop in Sacramento and Klamath Falls with alternative transportation being provided.
Containment lines remained the priority for firefighters overnight. Red flag warnings and heat advisories were put in place for the area.
By the next morning, over 38,000 individuals had been evacuated. The Shasta College evacuation center reached capacity by July 28 and two more shelters operated by the Red Cross, and one at Grace Baptist Church, were opened. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the state of California due to this fire and other fires burning in the state. The communities of Happy Valley and Anderson, as well as other areas, were put under mandatory evacuation in the mid-morning. A woman and two children, who were reported missing on July 26 due to the fire, were reported dead. More buildings were evaluated for damage, bringing the total up to 536 destroyed and 117 damaged. Winds were erratic, fueled by hot weather, which created spot fires throughout the fire area. Weaverville Elementary School was closed as an evacuation center and a new center was opened at Trinity High School. In the evening, new evacuation orders were put in place for Highway 299 at Trinity Dam Road west to Douglas City and other nearby subdivisions.
A sixth fatality was reported on July 29, as the fire moved from densely populated areas and into rural parts of Shasta and Trinity Counties. The community of Lewiston was evacuated. By the evening, fire containment had grown from 5 to 17 percent. The National Guard was assigned to Redding to monitor for looting in evacuated neighborhoods. The next day, repopulation began of areas of western Redding, Shasta Lake, and Happy Valley that had previously been evacuated. Overnight, strengthening containment lines remained a priority as east and west winds converged and created challenges for firefighters. Repopulation efforts continued, starting on the morning of July 31 for areas of western Redding, Summit City, Buckeye and Happy Valley. Celebrity chef Guy Fieri provided food for evacuees in Redding.
By the evening of July 31, the fire had burned 112,888 acres (45,684 ha) and was 30 percent contained. Crews were challenged by the fire along the western edge, where the fire burned in high terrain with strong winds and dry fuels.
Redding fire whirl
A powerful fire whirl with winds estimated in excess of 143 mph (230 km/h)—equivalent to an EF3 tornado—developed within the Carr Fire in Redding, California, on July 26. Remaining on the ground from 7:30–8:00 p.m., the fire whirl reached an estimated height of 18,000 ft (5,500 m) and caused extensive tornado-like damage while spreading the fire. The winds toppled transmission towers, shredded foliage, and debarked and uprooted trees. The smoke plume from the whirl "dominated" the majority of the wildfire. Substantial damage occurred in areas untouched by fire, including signs of ground scouring. Three people were killed inside their Redding home after the structure's walls were blown out and the roof collapsed on the occupants. Several other homes suffered significant roof damage.
The fire grew over 2,000 acres (809 ha) and to 35 percent containment as the fire burned into August 1. Late morning, evacuation orders were lifted for the Mary Lake Subdivision and, later in the day, residents were allowed back to Plateau Road. The City of Redding shut down their Carr Fire-related missing persons hotline as all missing people were accounted for. Shasta College, which served as an evacuation center, resumed normal services. Six people were reported as arrested for alleged looting or illegally being in evacuated areas. The area west of Lakehead, California, was closed to public access to allow for fire crews' safety. Thus far, the fire had destroyed 1,546 structures, including 1,058 residential and 13 commercial.
Over 1,600 structures remained threatened due to the fire as of August 2. It continued to grow as the terrain, wind and dry fuels continued to create challenges for fire crews. The Sunset West, Sunset Terrace, Ranch Land Acres, Middletown Park neighborhoods and Centerville were reopened to population in the morning. As of the morning of August 2, the fire was 125,842 acres (50,926 ha) and remained 35 percent contained.
By August 4, the fire grew to 145,015 acres (58,685 ha) and to 41 percent containment. California Governor Jerry Brown toured the site and announced that he had requested a major disaster declaration, which provides federal assistance. Later that day, President Donald Trump approved the request for Shasta County. A seventh fatality was reported when a PG&E employee died in a vehicle incident.
By August 9, the fire grew to 178,752 acres (72,338 ha) and to 49 percent containment. Early that morning a Cal Fire heavy equipment mechanic was killed in a traffic incident, bringing the total number of fatalities to eight.