They found the children's bodies under a wet blanket.

For days, family members had combed evacuation shelters, praying for a sign that Melody Bledsoe and her granddaughter's children had survived the Carr Fire.

Search crews sifted through the ashes of what used to be the family's neighbourhood in Redding, California, looking for something much worse.

Authorities called the family into the sheriff's office with news of the search's grim conclusion - and details of a matriarch's final, futile act.

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"Grandma did everything she could to save them she was hovered over them both with a wet blanket," Amanda Woodley wrote on Facebook, shortly afterward.

They were the latest victims of California's Carr Fire, an 36095ha blaze that has killed five people and twice doubled in size.

Emily Roberts was 4. Her brother, James Roberts, was 5.

Their mother's grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, was 70.

Their family hadn't heard from them since receiving desperate phone calls saying the flames were getting closer.

"The family that lives in town are all together mourning 3 amazing souls," Woodley wrote. "My heart is crushed i can't believe this is real i just keep seeing all of their beautiful faces."

While some families mourned, others braced themselves for the heartbreak to come.

Michelle Harrington, a teacher from Redding, said officials told her that she would be permitted to access her home - or, rather, what was left of it - today. She won't be alone.

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Sherry Bledsoe, left, and her sister, Carla, after hearing news that Sherry's children, James and Emily, and grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, were killed in the fire.
Sherry Bledsoe, left, and her sister, Carla, after hearing news that Sherry's children, James and Emily, and grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, were killed in the fire.

The Carr Fire has destroyed 500 structures and threatens 5000 more, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The latest official update about the blaze includes a sobering admission by fire authorities. Despite the efforts of 3400 active fire personnel, the blaze is winning.

"The winds, high temperatures and dry vegetation still have the potential to fuel fire growth," Cal Fire said. "Fire Spread has been active in all directions and has made significant runs."

Two firefighters - Redding Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke and Don Ray Smith, a privately hired bulldozer operator - were killed trying to contain the blaze.

As of today, the fire was 5 per cent contained. Authorities say it was sparked by a malfunctioning vehicle on July 23.

Cal Fire is currently fighting nearly 20 large blazes across the state, according to a statewide fire map.

Deer graze along a road covered in fire retardant near Redding.
Deer graze along a road covered in fire retardant near Redding.
An Army National Guard specialist speaks to a driver at a checkpoint in Redding.
An Army National Guard specialist speaks to a driver at a checkpoint in Redding.