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Photos show the devastation California’s Mill Fire left in its path

Mill Fire impacted a lot more than 100 structures, Cal Fire says in preliminary report

Photo of Amy Graff

Firefighters survey homes on Wakefield Avenue destroyed by the Mill Fire on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.
Firefighters survey homes on Wakefield Avenue destroyed by the Mill Fire on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.Noah Berger/AP

A terrifying scene unfolded Friday afternoon as California‘s wind-whipped Mill Fire tore through tinder-dry vegetation and devoured homes surrounding Weed, a little town in Siskiyou County that’s 280 miles north of SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA. By Saturday, the winds had calmed and firefighters stopped the wildfire‘s rapid spread, however the devastation from your day before became apparent. Wildfire photographers on the floor captured images of gutted cars, piles of ash which were once homes and the torched, blackened landscape.

Homes destroyed by the Mill Fire line Wakefield Ave. on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.
Homes destroyed by the Mill Fire line Wakefield Ave. on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.Noah Berger/AP

It will require several days for Cal Fire to nail down how many homes were destroyed on Friday. Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit Chief Phil Anzo said crews worked all day long and night to safeguard structures in Weed and in a subdivision to the east referred to as Carrick Addition. He said about 100 structures were destroyed.

In its preliminary damage report, Cal Fire said that at the very least 123 structures were impacted, so when of Saturday night, 50 destroyed structures have been counted. (Cal Fire didn’t specify just how many of these structures were homes.) The quantity will grow and shift as crews on the floor continue steadily to assess damage.

“Damage inspection teams will start ground truthing damaged and destroyed structures tomorrow,” Cal Fire said it in its report. “Numbers will undoubtedly be reported once they have already been verified.”

A scorched pickup truck sits in front of a Wakefield Avenue home destroyed by the Mill Fire on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.
A scorched pickup sits before a Wakefield Avenue home destroyed by the Mill Fire on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.Noah Berger/AP

The Mill Fire ignited Friday afternoon amid powerful winds and scorching temperatures, forcing a lot more than 5,000 visitors to evacuate from the communities of Weed, Lake Shastina and Edgewood.

Wildfire photographers posted images of homes engulfed in flames and several residents took to social media marketing to report that their homes were lost.

A police cordon is seen across a road in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood during the Mill Fire in Weed, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. 

A police cordon sometimes appears across a road in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood through the Mill Fire in Weed, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

Stephen Lam/AP

The fire grew minimally on Saturday. The blaze went from 3,921 acres on Friday night to 4,254 acres on Saturday night with 25% containment, Cal Fire said. Within an operational briefing on Sunday morning, Cal Fire said it didn’t expect growth on the fire today and the target was to regulate hot spots and obtain people home as quickly as possible.

“The city of Weed has experienced devastation in the last decade,” said Cal Fire Division Chief Todd Hopkins. “A lot of people have observed this before. Let’s have them back again to their normalcy to allow them to start their lives.” (Watch the full briefing on YouTube.)

Weed has seen three major fires since 2014, an interval of extreme drought which has prompted the biggest & most destructive fires in California history. The winds make Weed and the encompassing area a perilous place for wildfires, whipping small flames right into a frenzy.

A firefighter passes a home destroyed by the Mill Fire on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.
A firefighter passes a house destroyed by the Mill Fire on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.Noah Berger/AP

The fire broke out at the front end end of a heat wave bringing an extended amount of abnormally high temperatures. Weed is forecast to stay the reduced to high 90s into in a few days. The mercury could push around 100 degrees on Tuesday.

“Weather is still hot and dry with poor overnight relative humidity recoveries,” Cal Fire said in its report.

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The sun rises over Mt. Shasta and homes destroyed by the Mill Fire on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.
1of12Sunlight rises over Mt. Shasta and homes destroyed by the Mill Fire on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Weed, Calif.Noah Berger/AP

The Associated Press contributed to the report.

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