WEED, Calif. – A wind-driven wildfire in rural Northern California tore through a neighborhood and destroyed about 100 homes and other structures, fire officials said Saturday, after at least two people were injured and thousands were forced from their homes. .
The fire at the mill started shortly before 1 p.m. Friday, north of Weed, a town of about 2,600 people 250 miles (402 kilometers) north of San Francisco. The flames rushed into the Lincoln Heights neighborhood, where a significant number of homes burned and residents had to flee for their lives.
Two people were taken to Mercy Mount Shasta Medical Center. One is in stable condition and the other was taken to UC Davis Medical Center, which has a burn unit.
Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit Chief Phil Anzo said crews worked around the clock to protect structures in Weed and in a subdivision to the east known as the Carrick Addition.
“There’s a lot at stake in this mill fire,” he said. “There are a lot of communities there, a lot of homes.”
Weather conditions improved overnight and firefighters were 20 percent contained, but another fire, the Mountain Fire that broke out Friday northwest of Weed, has grown significantly. No buildings were reported damaged or lost in this fire. The causes of both fires are under investigation.
Anzo estimated that about 100 homes and other buildings were lost in the mill fire. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Siskiyou County and said a federal grant was received “to ensure the availability of vital firefighting resources.”
California is in deep drought as it heads into what is traditionally the worst fire season. Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
Over the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in the state’s history. Weed has experienced three major fires since 2014.
The latest fire broke out at or near Roseburg Forest Products, which manufactures wood products. Evacuation orders were quickly put into effect for 7,500 people.
Ivasha Hilliard said she was at home in Lincoln Heights when she heard a “loud boom” and ran outside to see her neighbor’s house in flames.
“It was like fire coming out of the sky,” she said. “It was terrible.”
Hilliard said her home was among those burned. “We lost everything,” she said.
Annie Peterson said she was sitting on the front porch of her home when suddenly “all this smoke was just curling toward us.”
Very quickly, her home and about a dozen others burned down. She said members of her church helped evacuate her and her son, who was immobilized. She said the scene of smoke and flames looked like “the world was coming to an end.”
Dr. Deborah Heeger, medical director at Shasta View Medical Center, said all 23 patients at the facility had to be evacuated. Twenty went to local hospitals, while three remained in her own home, where hospital beds were set up.
Rebecca Taylor, director of communications for Springfield, Ore.-based Roseburg, said a large vacant building at the end of the company’s property burned. All employees were evacuated and there were no reports of injuries, she said.
Power outages were reported around the time the fire broke out, affecting about 9,000 customers, and several thousand were without power late into the night because of the wildfire, according to power company PacifiCorp.
It was the third major wildfire in as many days in California, which is now sweltering from a heat wave that was expected to push temperatures above the 100-degree mark in many areas by Labor Day.
Thousands were also ordered to flee Wednesday from a fire in Castaic, north of Los Angeles, and a fire in eastern San Diego County near the Mexican border, where two people were badly burned and several homes were destroyed. All evacuation orders were lifted Friday.
The mill fire was burning about an hour’s drive from the Oregon state line. It was only about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of where the McKinney fire — the state’s deadliest of the year — broke out in late July. It killed four people and destroyed dozens of homes.
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