“I saw everything around it ignite, and I go, ‘It’s gone,’” Moore said.

At least one person was arrested on suspicion of stealing from evacuated homes and authorities were keeping watch for other potential looters, said Deputy Travis Ridenour, whose home also burned.

“Lost our house like so many others,” Ridenour wrote on Facebook. “Still out watching over the ones still standing. No looting on my watch.”

The latest tally showed at least 657 homes destroyed and another 145 damaged, with the fire having consumed 149 square miles (386 square kilometers).

After days of fortifying the areas around Redding, fire crews were increasingly confident that the city would escape further damage. The fire had not grown inside the city limits since Saturday, Gouvea said.

Some of the 38,000 people forced to evacuate said they were frustrated because they didn’t know whether their homes were standing or were destroyed. Authorities had not reopened any evacuated neighborhoods where fires raged due to safety and ongoing investigations and urged people to be patient, saying they would soon let residents back.

Fed up, on Sunday morning Tim Bollman hiked 4 miles (6 kilometers) on trails up steep terrain to check on the Redding home he built for his wife and two sons 13 years ago. He found rubble.

“There’s not even anything to pick up,” he said. “It’s completely gone.”

Keswick, a mountain town of about 450 people, was reduced to an ashy moonscape of blackened trees and smoldering rubble.

The terrain surrounding nearby Whiskeytown Lake — usually filled in July with vacationers swimming in the clear water — was burned, burning or seemingly about to burn Sunday. A heavy haze hung low over the water, where some of the docked boats had melted. Firefighters and utility repair crews drove up and down the once-scenic highway, while California Department of Transportation water trucks sprayed roadsides in hopes of preventing potential wildfires from burning across the road, which can cost several million dollars to repair.

The fatalities included two firefighters and a woman and her two great-grandchildren.

“My babies are dead,” Sherry Bledsoe said through tears after she and family members met Saturday with sheriff’s deputies.

Her two children, 5-year-old James Roberts and 4-year-old Emily Roberts, were stranded with their great-grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, 70, when flames swept through the family’s rural property Thursday on the outskirts of Redding.

The sixth victim, who was not identified, did not evacuate despite receiving an evacuation warning, Bosenko said.

It is the largest fire burning in California, threatening more than 5,000 structures. The flames were just 5 percent contained, though Gouvea said he expected that number to climb.

The firefighters killed in the blaze included Don Ray Smith, 81, of Pollock Pines, a bulldozer operator who was helping clear vegetation in the path of the wildfire. Redding Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke was also killed, but details of his death were not released.

The fire around Redding was among 17 significant blazes in the state on Sunday that had forced roughly 50,000 people from their homes, said Lynne Tolmachoff, a Cal Fire spokeswoman.

About 12,000 firefighters were battling the fires, she said.

Meanwhile officials said a second firefighter died fighting a huge blaze to the south near Yosemite National Park. Brian Hughes, 33, was struck by a tree and killed while working as part of a crew removing brush and other fuel near the so-called Ferguson Fire’s front lines, national parks officials said.

Originally from Hawaii, Hughes had been with California’s Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots for four years and reached the rank of captain. Earlier this month, firefighter Braden Varney was killed when the bulldozer he was operating overturned while he was fighting the flames near the national park. At least seven other firefighters have been injured since that blaze broke out July 13.

Some evacuations were lifted but officials said Yosemite Valley, the heart of tourism in the park, will remain closed until Aug. 3.

A big fire continued to burn in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles near Palm Springs, but officials lifted evacuation orders for several communities after reporting significant progress by firefighters.

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Thanawala reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Martha Mendoza in Redding and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.