California Wildfire Destroys 67 Homes

Firefighters battled a 8,000-acre wildfire that destroyed more than 67 homes near the eastern edge of Shasta Lake and forced hundreds of people to flee.


SHASTA LAKE, Calif. -- Firefighters battled a 8,000-acre wildfire that destroyed more than 67 homes near the eastern edge of Shasta Lake and forced hundreds of people to flee.

By Friday morning, the fire was 60 percent contained, said Roy Del Carlo, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Firefighters were aided by a change in the weather when winds died down and the humidity increased, he said.

``It laid down for us last night,'' Del Carlo said. ``Right now it's not moving at all.''

The blaze, which was started Wednesday by sparks from a lawn mower, scorched 8,030 acres of grass, brush and timber, CDF officials said. Dense smoke from the fire blanketed the region Friday morning.

A shift in the wind Thursday afternoon pushed the fire back to the north northeast and firefighters were backfiring - setting fires that consume fuel which would otherwise speed the fire.

About a dozen residents evacuated from their homes spent the night at a shelter set up at the Shasta College campus, but most of the displaced homeowners stayed with friends or family, Red Cross officials said.

Some firefighters and evacuees gathered Friday morning at the Dry Creek Station, a restaurant offering a free breakfast.

Mickey Lawson returned from an out-of-state trip to find that her neighborhood had been evacuated and she had no way to know if her house was still standing.

``My dogs and cats are there. I don't know if they're alive or dead or what,'' Lawson said. ``I have no clue.''

The 67 homes destroyed were in the Jones Valley subdivision, just south of Lake Shasta and east of Redding, the CDF said. There were also 30 outbuildings and 10 vehicles destroyed in the blaze.

Hundreds of people were have been evacuated from the vast area threatened by the fire and a shelter was set up at a nearby community college. They have evacuated at least 390 homes. Two firefighters had minor injuries.

Laci Breeden lost her pictures, clothing and even a ring from her great-grandmother in the fire but was most concerned about the fate of her pet lizard, Cyrus. She recalled how the lizard crawled over her foot before she left for work Wednesday, a little before the fire started.

``To me, it seemed he knew it was the last time he'd see me,'' Breeden said. ``It was like, 'Take me with you. Don't leave me here.'''

Sue Collins, the manager of the Silverthorn Resort on the southeast end of Lake Shasta, said fire officials evacuated about 150 people from the area near the marina. Some were taken by boat to another marina, she said, while others moved to a dock away from fuel tanks.

The resort, which includes cabins, a small restaurant and 54 houseboats, had a view of the flames, Collins said.

``It was real close,'' she said. ``We are out of danger now, but there's always a possibility that the wind will change again.''

Firefighters were fighting the blaze amid temperatures that climbed above 100 degrees for a second straight day. Additional firefighters arrived overnight, bringing the number of personnel on scene to more than 1,600. Air tankers and helicopters on scene once again.

Officials cited the lawn mower operator, and the person might be held responsible for the costs of suppressing the fire, said CDF spokesman Kevin Colburn. When the fire started at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday, the temperature in the area was 105 degrees with 12 percent humidity.

In 1999, the area was hit by a 26,200-acre fire that destroyed 174 homes and was one of the state's worst. Shasta Lake is in north central California.

Meanwhile, a 1,000-acre fire in Butte County was 50 percent contained as of Thursday evening and was expected to be completely contained Friday morning. One house was destroyed and 30 others threatened from the fire that started Wednesday.