The last thing Ed Bledsoe heard from his family trapped in their home by California’s deadly Carr Fire last week was his five-year-old great-grandson begging him to come get them and saying that he loved him.
Bledsoe, who left the house to go to the doctor last Thursday, was standing just down the road from his home in Redding as a wall of flames closed in on it, but he said police stopped him from going inside.
All he could do was stay on the phone with his wife, 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe, and their two great-grandkids, four-year-old Emily and five-year-old James, until their lives were snuffed out by the raging inferno.
‘He just kept saying, “Grandpa, come and get me,”’ Bledsoe said, referring to his great-grandson. ‘”The fire’s coming in the back door. C’mon Grandpa.”’
Little Emily told her great-grandfather that she loved him, as did his wife and James, who kept begging his grandpa to rescue them.
‘I said, “I’m on my way”… He talked until he died,’ Bledsoe said of the boy, whom he and wife Melody had been raising since birth and who looked up to him.
Then, the line went dead. Bledsoe said he tried to dial the number again, but there was no response.
Initially, Bledsoe told CNN he was led to believe that the sheriff’s deputies rescued his family and brought them to safety.
A fire crew was sent in to look through what was left of the family’s home and reported back that no bodies were recovered.
The next day, a second search was conducted, and this time firefighters discovered the bodies of Melody Bledsoe and her two great-grandkids.
The woman and children had wrapped themselves in wet blankets in a desperate, and ultimately futile, attempt to protect themselves from the searing heat.
‘She wet a bunch of blankets and put them down at the side of the bed,’ Bledsoe told CBS Sacramento. ‘She got a wet blanket and put one on her. Got over the top of them, and they lay there until the fire took them.’
The grieving man said his family were never told to evacuate by the local authorities, but he does not blame anyone but himself for what happened.
‘I shouldn’t have left my family in harm’s way,’ Bledsoe said.
Don Kewley, whose girlfriend is one of the Bledsoes’ granddaughters, said Ed lost everything in the fire, leaving him with little more than the clothes on his back.
Kewley said the family believed the area was not in imminent danger and Melody Bledsoe had no car.
Jason Decker, who is the boyfriend of another Bledsoe granddaughter, took the day off work Friday and drove his motorcycle to the home to look for members of the family but only found the smoldering remains of the house.
A day later, what remained of the Bledsoe property was surrounded with crime scene tape.
Decker said his own children played with James and Emily and they had trick-or-treated together.
‘I don’t even have any more tears to cry,‘ Decker said. ‘But I keep finding them.’
As of Monday morning, wildfires in Shasta County and near Yosemite National Park have claimed eight lives, among them two firefighters and six civilians, including the Bledsoe family.
Residents of the waterfront town Lakeport fled Sunday after a major flare-up of two fires that combined across Mendocino and Lake counties destroyed at least four homes. Lakeport, home to about 5,000, is around 120 miles north of San Francisco.
More than 4,500 buildings were under threat, officials said. The two fires had blackened 47 square miles, with minimal containment.
About 100 miles northeast, officials near Redding struck a hopeful tone for the first time in days as a massive fire slowed following days of explosive growth.
‘We’re feeling a lot more optimistic today as we’re starting to gain some ground rather than being in a defensive mode on this fire all the time,’ said Bret Gouvea, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s incident commander on the blaze around Redding, a city about 230 miles north of San Francisco.
The sheriff’s department is investigating seven missing persons reports, County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said. Redding police have an additional 11 reports of missing people, though many of them may simply not have checked in with friends or family, said Redding police Sgt. Todd Cogle.
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SOURCE: Associated Press / Daily Mail – Snejana Farberov