WEED, Calif. –
About 1,000 people in the Weed community in rural Northern California remained at home on Sunday as firefighters worked to prevent the blaze from spreading out of control early in the holiday weekend.
Power outages, smoky skies and uncertainty about what the day would bring left a feeling of emptiness around town the morning after evacuation orders were lifted for thousands of other residents.
“It was eerily quiet,” said Susan Tavalero, a Weed city councilor who was driving to a meeting with fire officials.
She has been joined by Mayor Kim Greene, and the two hope to get more details on how many homes have been lost. A total of 132 structures were destroyed or damaged, fire officials said Sunday, though it was not clear if it was homes, businesses or other buildings.
The crew kept the fire, known as the Mill Fire, from growing overnight. As of Sunday morning, the fire covered about 6.6 square miles (17 square kilometers) and was 25% under control, a number unchanged since Saturday night, according to a morning report from the Forest Service and California Fire Department.
Three people were injured, according to Cal Fire, but no other details were available. Two people were taken to Mercy Mount Shasta Medical Center, Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit Director Phil Anzo said Saturday. One was in stable condition and the other was transported to UC Davis Medical Center, where the burn unit is located.
Nearby, crews battled another fire known as the Mountain Flame, which also erupted on Friday, albeit in a less populated area. More than 300 people were ordered to evacuate.
Weed, home to less than 3,000 people, about 280 miles (451 km) northeast of San Francisco, has long been perceived by passers-by as an unusual stop along Interstate 5. But the town, nestled in the shadow of Mount Shasta, is no stranger to wildfires.
Dominique Mathes, 37, said he has had several close calls with wildfires since he lived in Weed. Although fire hazards are becoming more frequent, he does not want to leave.
“It’s a beautiful place,” he said. “Everybody’s at risk everywhere, like Florida has hurricanes and floods, Louisiana has tornadoes and all that. So it happens everywhere. Unfortunately here, it’s just that. fire.”
The winds made Weed and the surrounding area a dangerous place for forest fires, blowing small flames into a frenzy. Weed has seen three major fires since 2014, a period of extreme drought that caused the largest and most destructive fires in California history.
That drought continues as California falls into the worst of its traditional fire season. Climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past three decades, scientists say, and will continue to make more extreme weather and more frequent and destructive wildfires.
Crews battled the blaze while much of the state was engulfed in a Labor Day weekend heatwave, with temperatures expected to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in Los Angeles, the weather said. especially warm in Southern California. Temperatures are expected to get even hotter from the Central Valley to the capital, Sacramento.
The California Independent Systems operator has issued its fifth “flexibility warning,” urging people to use their air conditioners and other devices sparingly between 4 and 9 p.m. power grid protection.
Ronayne reports from Sacramento, California. Associated Press journalist Stefanie Dazio from Los Angeles.