Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue confirmed two deaths from a town fire in Northern California.
On Sunday afternoon, LaRue broke the news of the deaths during a community meeting in an elementary school north of Weed, a rural village in Northern California that had been ravaged by one of the state’s most recent wildfires. He didn’t immediately reveal any information about the deceased, such as their identities, ages, or genders.
He then asked for silence, saying, “There’s no easy way to describe it.”
LaRue and other authorities have acknowledged the community’s concerns, such as the lack of information on when residents can return home and when electricity would be restored. On Sunday, firefighters were still working to contain the flames that began Friday, the start of the holiday weekend, and forced the evacuation of about a thousand people.
Cal Fire reported that the conflagration, which they were calling the Mill Fire, had burned around 17 square kilometers (6.6 square miles) and was 25% contained as of Saturday morning. But on Sunday, authorities reported that the adjacent Mountain Fire had grown in size. It began on Friday, too, albeit in a less densely populated region. It was necessary to order the evacuation of over 300 persons.
A sense of emptiness pervaded the town of Weed the morning after evacuation orders were lifted for thousands of people due to power outages, smoky sky, and uncertainty about the day ahead.
Susan Tavalero, a municipal councilor on her way to a meeting with fire officials, remarked, “It’s disturbingly silent.”
She brought Mayor Kim Greene with her, and they went to see if they could find out how many houses had been destroyed. Fire officials said Sunday that 132 buildings were destroyed or damaged, however it was unclear whether that number included residences, commercial spaces, or other types of buildings.
Three persons were hurt, according to Cal Fire, but no more details were given. Two victims were carried to Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta, Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit Chief Phil Anzo said Saturday. One was in stable condition and the other was taken to UC Davis Medical Center, which has a burn unit. It’s not known if the deaths that were reported on Sunday are connected to these injuries.
There are less than 3,000 people who call the town of Weed, California, home, and it’s located around 280 miles (451 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco. However, the town, which is located in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, is no stranger to flames.
Chief of Cal Fire’s Siskiyou Unit Phil Anzo has acknowledged the devastation that recent fires have wreaked on the rural area.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of fires in this neighborhood, we’ve seen a lot of fires in this county, and we’ve suffered a lot of devastation,” Anzo added.
The 37-year-old Dominique Mathes has lived in Weed and has reported several close brushes with wildfires. Although there are increasing risks of fire, he has no plans to evacuate.
He remarked, “It’s a beautiful site.” Florida is vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding, while Louisiana is at risk from tornadoes and other natural disasters. That means it occurs in every region. There have been fires in the area, unfortunately.
Weed and the surrounding area are particularly vulnerable to wildfires due to the area’s high wind speeds, which can fan even little fires into dangerous blazes. Since 2014, Weed has been hit by three big fires, the worst and most destructive in California’s history due to the state’s chronic drought.
This drought continues just as California enters its normally most dangerous fire season. According to scientists, the West has become warmer and drier due to climate change over the past three decades, and this trend will only continue, making weather more intense and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
While much of the state burned in a heat wave during the Labor Day weekend, firefighters worked to contain the blazes in Los Angeles, where temperatures were forecast to reach a record high of 100 °F (38 °C). The Central Valley and the region around Sacramento, California’s capital, were forecast to experience even higher temperatures.
For the seventh time, the California Independent System Operator has issued a “flex alert,” a request for residents to limit their usage of air conditioners and other appliances between 4 and 9 p.m.