California Wildfire Destroys At Least 40 Homes

SHASTA LAKE, Calif. (AP) -- A fast-growing wildfire started by sparks from a lawn mower destroyed at least 64 structures near the eastern edge of Shasta Lake, forcing hundreds of people to flee.

The blaze scorched 3,000 acres by Thursday morning, said Kevin Colburn, spokesman for the state forestry department. The fire was 40 percent contained, but a shift in the wind overnight pushed the fire southward, he said.

At least 40 of the 64 structures burned were homes, fire officials said.

More than 300 people were evacuated Wednesday from the vast area threatened by the fire and a shelter was set up at a nearby school. Additional evacuations were ordered overnight, Colburn said, but he had no detail. Five people suffered minor injuries.

Alphonso and Shelley Barrera were forced to leave their new home so quickly they left their dog behind.

``The flames were about 50 feet high; they were coming through the ravine,'' Alphonso Barrera said.

The fire spread from 100 acres to 800 acres in less than four hours Wednesday, branching toward the Silverthorn Resort on the southeast end of Lake Shasta.

Sue Collins, Silverthorn's manager, said fire officials evacuated about 150 people from the area near the marina on Wednesday. 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, with Thursday's temperatures also expected to be high.

Additional firefighters arrived overnight, bringing the number on scene to nearly 1,200, Colburn said. Air tankers and helicopters were back on scene after daybreak.

Officials cited the lawn mower operator, and the person might be held responsible for the costs of suppressing the fire, Colburn said.

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.

In north-central Washington, a helicopter pilot was killed while ferrying supplies to firefighters in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The crash was under investigation.

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