Several people injured, thousands flee as wildfires rage in Northern California

Several people injured, thousands flee as wildfires rage in Northern California

Several people injured, thousands flee as wildfires rage in Northern California

WEED, Calif. (AP) — Thousands of people remained under evacuation orders Saturday after a wind-blown wildfire swept through rural Northern California, injuring people and setting fire to an unknown number of homes.

The fire, which started Friday afternoon at or near a wood products factory, quickly blew into a neighborhood on the northern outskirts of Weed, but then carried flames away from the town of approximately 2,600 residents.

Evacuees described heavy smoke and chunks of ash raining down.

A home goes up in flames as the Mill Fire causes damage in the Lake Shastina subdivision northwest of Weed, California, Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.
A home goes up in flames as the Mill Fire causes damage in the Lake Shastina subdivision northwest of Weed, California, Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.

Hung T. Vu/The Record Searchlight via AP

Annie Peterson said she was sitting on the porch of her house near Roseburg Forest Products, which make wood veneers, when “we suddenly heard a big bang and all that smoke just rolled toward us.”

Soon her house and 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 ending.”

A neighborhood is smoldering after being devastated by the Mill Fire in Weed, California, Friday, September 2, 2022.
A neighborhood is smoldering after being devastated by the Mill Fire in Weed, California, Friday, September 2, 2022.

Hung T. Vu/The Record Searchlight via AP)

Suzi Brady, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire, said several people were injured.

Allison Hendrickson, spokeswoman for Dignity Health North State hospitals, said two people were taken to Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta. One was in stable condition and the other was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center, which has a burns unit.

Rebecca Taylor, communications director for Roseburg Forest Products in Springfield, Oregon, said it’s unclear whether the fire started near or on the company’s property. A large vacant building on the edge of the company site has burned down, she said. All employees have been evacuated and no one has reported injuries, she said.

The eruption, dubbed the Mill Fire, was pushed by 35 mph (56 kph) winds and quickly engulfed 10.3 square miles of land.

The flames swept through tinder-dry grass, undergrowth, and wood. About 7,500 people in Weed and several nearby communities were under evacuation orders.

Firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection attempt to stop the Mill Fire flames from spreading on a site in the Lake Shastina subdivision northwest of Weed, California, Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.
Firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection attempt to stop the Mill Fire flames from spreading on a site in the Lake Shastina subdivision northwest of Weed, California, Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.

Hung T. Vu/The Record Searchlight via AP

dr. Deborah Higer, medical director of the Shasta View Nursing Center, said all 23 patients at the facility were evacuated, with 20 going to local hospitals and three at her own home, where hospital beds had been set up.

Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Siskiyou County, saying a federal grant had been received “to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the fire.”

Around the time the fire broke out, power outages were reported affecting about 9,000 customers, and several thousand were left without electricity late into the night, according to an outage website for energy company PacifiCorp, which said they were due to the wildfire.

It was the third major wildfire in as many days in California, which was in the throes of a prolonged drought and is now scalding a heat wave expected to push temperatures above 100 degrees in many areas until Labor Day.

Thousands were also ordered Wednesday to flee a fire in Castaic, north of Los Angeles, and a blaze in eastern San Diego County, near the Mexican border, where two people were badly burned and several homes destroyed. Those fires were under control by 56% and 65%, respectively, and all evacuations had been canceled.

Smoke blankets the sky as the Mill Fire approaches in Weed, California, Friday, September 2, 2022.
Smoke blankets the sky as the Mill Fire approaches in Weed, California, Friday, September 2, 2022.

Hung T. Vu/The Record Searchlight via AP

The heat strained the state’s electrical grid as people tried to stay cool. For a fourth day, residents were asked to save on electricity late Saturday afternoon and evening.

The Mill Fire burned about an hour’s drive from the Oregon state line. A second fire broke out on Friday near the municipality of Gazelle, a few kilometers north of the fire. The Mountain Fire burned down more than 6 square kilometers, but no injuries or damage to buildings were reported.

The entire region has suffered repeated devastating wildfires in recent years. The mill fire was located just about 30 miles southeast of where the McKinney fire — the deadliest of the year in the state — broke out in late July. It killed four people and destroyed dozens of homes.

Olga Hood was fleeing home with her Weed on Friday when smoke billowed over the next hill.

With the infamous gusts tearing through the city at the foot of Mount Shasta, she didn’t wait for an evacuation order. She packed her documents, medicines and little else, said her granddaughter, Cynthia Jones.

“With the wind in Weed, things like that move fast. It’s bad,” Jones said by phone from her home in Medford, Oregon. “It’s not uncommon to have gusts of 50 to 60 mph on a normal day. As a child I was blown into a stream.”

Hood’s home for nearly three decades was spared from a fire last year and from the devastating Boles Fire that swept through town eight years ago, destroying more than 160 buildings, mostly homes.

Hood wept as she discussed the fire from a relative’s home in the hamlet of Granada, Jones said. She was unable to collect photos that had been important to her late husband.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past three decades and that the weather will continue to make more extremes and wildfires more frequent and destructive. In the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most devastating fires in state history.

Associated Press reporters Olga R. Rodriguez and Janie Har in San Francisco and Stefanie Dazio and Brian Melley in Los Angeles contributed to this article.

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