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Thousands flee, several hurt as California wildfire advances rapidly

by Adam Beam, Associated Press |

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 Siskiyou County city of about 2,600 people 250 miles 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 suppressthe 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.