A wind-swept wildfire in rural Northern California tore through a neighborhood and destroyed about 100 homes and other buildings, fire officials said Saturday after at least two people were injured and thousands were forced from their homes.
The Mill Fire started shortly before 1 p.m. Friday just north of Weed, a city of about 2,600 people 250 miles (402 kilometers) north of San Francisco. The flames raced into the Lincoln Heights neighborhood where a significant number of homes burned and residents had to flee for their lives.
Two people were brought to Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta. One was in stable condition and the other was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center, which has a burn unit.
Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit Chief Phil Anzo said crews worked all day and night to protect structures in Weed and in a subdivision to the east known as Carrick Addition.
“There’s a lot at stake on that Mill Fire,” he said. “There’s a lot of communities, a lot of homes there.”
Weather conditions improved overnight and firefighters were able to get 20% containment but another blaze, the Mountain Fire, that broke out Friday northwest of Weed grew substantially. No injuries or buildings had been reported lost in that fire. The causes for both fires were under investigation.
Anzo estimated 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 had been received “to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the fire.”
California is in a deep drought as it heads into what traditionally is the worst of the fire season. Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
In the last five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive fires in state history. Weed has seen three major fires since 2014.
The latest fire started at or near Roseburg Forest Products, which makes wood products. Evacuation orders were quickly put in effect for 7,500 people.
Yvasha Hilliard said she was home in Lincoln Heights when she heard “a big boom” and ran outside to see her neighbor’s house on fire.
“It was like fire coming out of the sky,” she said. “It was terrible.”
Hilliard said her home was among those that burned. “We lost everything,” she said.
Annie Peterson said she was sitting on the porch of her home when suddenly “all that smoke was just rolling over toward us.”
Very quickly her home and about a dozen others were on fire. She said members of her church helped evacuate her and her son, who is immobile. She said the scene of smoke and flames looked like “the world was coming to an end.”
Dr. Deborah Higer, medical director at the Shasta View Nursing Center, said all 23 patients at the facility had to be evacuated. Twenty went to local hospitals while three stayed at her own home, where hospital beds were set up.
Rebecca Taylor, communications director for Springfield, Oregon-based Roseburg, said a large empty building at the edge of company property burned. All employees were evacuated and none reported injuries, she said.
At about the time the blaze started, power outages were reported that affected some 9,000 customers, and several thousand remained without electricity late into the night due to the wildfire, according to power company PacifiCorp.
It was the third large wildfire in as many days in California, which is now sweltering under a heat wave that was expected to push temperatures past the 100-degree mark in many areas through Labor Day.
Thousands also were ordered to flee on Wednesday from a fire in Castaic, north of Los Angeles, and a blaze in eastern San Diego County, near the Mexican border, where two people were severely 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 — erupted in late July. It killed four people and destroyed dozens of homes.