According to fire officials, a wind-whipped wildfire that ripped through a rural Northern California neighborhood on Saturday destroyed approximately 100 homes and other structures. At least two people were hurt due to the incident, and thousands of people had to leave their homes.
The Mill Fire broke out shortly before 1 p.m. Friday just north of Weed, a town of about 2,600 people located approximately 250 miles (402 kilometers) northwest of San Francisco. The fire raged through the Lincoln Heights neighborhood destroying many homes and forcing residents to flee.
Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta received two patients. The first was in stable condition, while the other was admitted to taking to the UC Davis Medical Center burn unit.
Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit Chief Phil Anzo stated that crews worked all day and night to protect structures in Weed and surrounding areas in the Carrick Addition subdivision to the east.
“A lot is riding on that Mill Fire,” he says. “There are a lot of communities and homes there.”
Weather conditions improved overnight, and firefighters achieved 20% containment. Still, the Mountain Fire, which broke out Friday northwest of Weed, grew significantly. There were no reports of injuries or building destruction due to the fire. They were investigating the causes of both fires.
The Mill Fire destroyed approximately 100 homes and other structures, according to Anzo. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Siskiyou County. He announced receiving a federal grant “to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the fire.”
Naomi Vogelsang, 46, believes her 10-year-old English bulldog, Bella, was killed in the Mill Fire. Vogelsang claimed she was napping on a couch when a friend told her she needed to leave immediately.
“It was pitch black,” she said on Saturday. “Things were exploding in front of your face, you couldn’t see.”
A firefighter picked her up and loaded her onto a firetruck to get her. However, her dog, who turns 11 the following month, refused to follow. The houses around her were on fire.
Vogelsang said she spent Friday night sleeping on a bench in Weed because she couldn’t get a ride to the evacuation center. She had planned to go to a casino with the $20 she had left on Saturday morning.
Her luck couldn’t get any worse, she reasoned.
“My dog was everything to me,” she explained. “I feel like I’ve lost everything that was important to me.”
California is in a severe drought as it enters what is traditionally the worst part of the fire season. The West is warmer and drier due to climate change, say scientists over the last three decades. Weather extremes and destructive wildfires will only continue to increase due to this.
California has experienced the most extensive and destructive wildfires in the last five years. Since 2014, there have been three major fires in the weed industry.
The most recent fire began at or near Roseburg Forest Products, which manufactures wood products. Orders to evacuate 7,500 people are being issued without delay.
Judy Christenson, 63, said a fire nearly 40 years ago in Oregon was destroyed. She rushed home six minutes to evacuate her three children due to the traumatic event. Judy is terrified whenever there is a fire close to her Weed home. She always leashes her dogs to grab them if they need to leave quickly.
“It’s like every summer I have to pack a to-go bag,” she explained.
On Friday, she worked as a teacher’s aide in Mount Shasta when the fire broke out. The school’s power went out, and she noticed a large plume of black smoke rising from the mountain. She wants to escape the fires but can’t say she needs to retire first.
Yvasha Hilliard of Lincoln Heights said she was at home. After hearing “a big boom” and running outside, she discovered her neighbor’s house on fire.
“It was like fire was falling from the sky,” she said. “It was dreadful.”
Hilliard stated that her house was one of those that burned. “We had lost everything,” she explained.
The Shasta View Nursing Center’s medical director, Dr. Deborah Higer, stated that all 23 patients had to be evacuated. Twenty went to nearby hospitals, while three stayed at her home, which had hospital beds.
According to Rebecca Taylor, communications director for Springfield, Oregon-based Roseburg, a large empty building on the company’s property burned down. She stated that all employees were evacuated and that no injuries were reported.
An estimated 9,000 customers were affected by power outages in the area where the fire first appeared. According to power company PacifiCorp, several thousand remained without power late into the night due to the wildfire.
When the power went out, Rich Biddlecome, 76, of Weed, was sitting at his desk. He went outside soon after and saw several fireball explosions. It happened across the street at Roseburg Forest Products.
He made plans to meet his grandson. Then began packing his three cats into carriers in preparation for the evacuation. He also grabbed computers but didn’t think to grab extra clothing.
“I walked out with shoes, no socks, a pair of shorts, and a T-shirt,” he explained as ash swirled around him on Saturday in an evacuation center in the Yreka parking lot.
It was California’s third major wildfire in as many days. It is experiencing a heat wave with temperatures expected to exceed 100 degrees in many areas through Labor Day.
Thousands flee two fires in Castaic due to the evacuation order, north of Los Angeles. One close to the Mexican border in eastern San Diego County, where two people were severely burned, and several homes were destroyed on Wednesday. On Friday, Government lifted the orders for evacuation.
The Mill Fire was about an hour’s drive from the Oregon border. The state’s deadliest year as it’s located 30 miles (48 kilometers) away from the McKinney Fire’s location and erupted in late July. It took the lives of four people and destroyed dozens of homes.