Mill fire in Weed, Calif. causes evacuations in Siskiyou County

The fast-growing plant fire injured several people and prompted widespread evacuations near the town of Weed in far northern California on Friday afternoon.

The fire, centered around Woodridge Court and Woodridge Way, exploded to over 2,500 acres within hours, Cal Fire said, and was zero percent contained and increasing to a “dangerous rate of spread” by mid-afternoon.

Cal Fire Siskiyou spokeswoman Suzi Brady said “several” civilians were injured, treated and transported to hospitals in the afternoon, although the exact numbers and circumstances surrounding the injuries are not known. clear.

Some 5,800 residents were subject to mandatory evacuations covering all of the towns of Weed, Lake Shastina and Edgewood, as well as several areas to the north. In Weed, about 50 miles south of the Oregon border, images posted to social media showed flames and massive structures, including a sawmill engulfed in fire.

“We have structures that have been destroyed,” Brady said, although a count has not yet been made. “If you are asked to leave for an evacuation order, please do so. This fire is very dynamic.

The blaze that officials say erupted just before 1 p.m. Friday is one of many burning across California as a Labor Day heat wave batters the state, pushing temperatures in many inland regions in the triple digits. In Weed, temperatures hovered around 95 degrees in the late afternoon with low humidity and moderate wind.

The Associated Press reported that the mill fire started at an area sawmill, but Cal Fire Siskiyou’s Brady said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Siskiyou County on Friday night, adding federal resources to a rapidly evolving response effort in the community that was under a red flag when the fire broke out.

According to the state’s emergency declaration, “The Mill Fire exhibited extreme burning behavior,” resulting in injuries, power outages, destruction of property, forced road closures and continued threats to homes. , businesses and critical infrastructure.

As the extent of the destruction began to take shape, emergency radio communications between first responders highlighted the safety concerns raised by the rapidly spreading fire.

“An elderly, deaf couple needs to be evacuated,” a dispatcher relayed around 3 p.m., following multiple earlier requests for ambulances and evacuation assistance.

“We have tons of traffic here,” another person from the Big Springs area reported.

Just after 4 p.m., first responders already rushing to respond to the mill fire were also reporting plumes rising from another new fire nearby, the Mountain Fire. That fire, located about 12 miles away, had grown to around 300 acres by early Friday evening, Cal Fire said, sparking a debate about how many resources could be withdrawn to deal with the incident that triggered warnings evacuation north of Siskiyou. -Trinity County line.

“We have a mess here,” a fire official said over the radio.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has issued mandatory evacuation orders for all areas east of I-5 from Weed to the A12 Freeway, south of the A12 from Grenada to the highway 97 and west of highway 97 from the A12 to I-5. Highway 97 was closed after 2 p.m., and Cal Fire said more local road closures could follow.

A map of Zonehaven showing evacuation orders due to the factory fire near Weed, California.

zone haven

An evacuation shelter has been established at the Karuk Wellness Center in Yreka, Cal Fire said. Animal shelters were open for large animals at the county fair, cats at the fair’s armory, and dogs at the Rescue Ranch in Yreka.

“Please exercise caution,” the sheriff’s office urged Friday afternoon, “as emergency vehicles assist with evacuations, structure protection and fire suppression efforts.”

Earlier in the afternoon, students from Weed High School, on the east side of the town of 2,800, were also transported to Mt. Shasta High School to be picked up, Cal Fire said.

A football game between Mount Shasta High School and Central Valley High School that was scheduled to take place in the town of Shasta Lake was also canceled Friday night due to the fire, according to a social media post from the athletic department. of Central Valley.

“We know this has had a huge impact on many who frequent Mount Shasta,” the post said, “and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”

Lauren Hepler (her) is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @LAHepler