Flashbacks: Charred California town no stranger to wildfire

Sep 2, 2022, 11:13 AM | Updated: Sep 4, 2022, 3:48 am
An overturned walker and wheelchair are seen near a home destroyed by the Mill Fire in Weed, Calif....

An overturned walker and wheelchair are seen near a home destroyed by the Mill Fire in Weed, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

(Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

WEED, Calif. (AP) — Her home destroyed, dog missing, and 10-year relationship with her boyfriend recently ended – all Naomi Vogelsang could do on Saturday was sit outside of a Northern California wildfire evacuation center with $20 in her pocket, waiting for a ride to the casino.

“It can’t be any worse,” she said.

Vogelsang is one of thousands of people displaced this week by California’s latest inferno, this time in the small community of Weed about 280 miles (451 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco. Most visitors know this town as a novelty, a place to stop while traveling on Interstate 5 and buy an ironic T-shirt.

But for the people who live here, the past few years have introduced another worry in a world full of them: Dark skies, swirling ash and flames that race so quickly they leave little time for escape.

This time it was a blaze known as the Mill Fire. Flames raced from Roseburg Forest Products, which makes wood products, into the Lincoln Heights neighborhood where a significant number of homes burned and residents had to flee for their lives on Friday afternoon. The blaze spread to more than 6.6 square miles (17 square kilometers) by Saturday evening and was 25% contained.

After fleeing the blaze, 63-year-old Judy Christenson remembered a similar escape 40 years ago when, as a young parent, she had to rush her children out of a burning home. Last summer, a wildfire forced her to evacuate and leave her pets behind. Now, Christenson says she leaves harnesses on her pets all the time so she can grab them at a moment’s notice and leave.

“Whenever this happens, I get really bad,” Christenson said from the front seat of a car at an evacuation center in Yreka as Felix, her orange cat, napped in the backseat. “I can’t think straight.”

Nestled in the shadow of Mt. Shasta — a 14,000-foot (4,267.2-meter) volcano that is the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range — Weed is no stranger to wildfires.

Strong winds in the area that fan flames drew the town’s founder for a very different reason. Abner Weed, a Civil War soldier who is said to have witnessed the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender before moving to California, chose to put a sawmill there because the wind would dry out the timber, according to Bob West, a lifelong resident who co-owns Ellie’s Espresso and Bakery, a coffee and sandwich shop that contains some historical items of the town’s past.

The winds make Weed and the surrounding area a perilous place for wildfires, whipping small flames into a frenzy. Weed has seen three major fires since 2014, a period of extreme drought that has prompted the largest and most destructive fires in California history.

That drought persists as California heads into what traditionally is the worst of the fire season. Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Dominique Mathes, 37, said he’s had some close calls with wildfires since he has lived in Weed. But he’s not interested in leaving.

“It’s a beautiful place,” he said. “Everybody has risks everywhere, like Florida’s got hurricanes and floods, Louisiana has got tornadoes and all that stuff. So, it happens everywhere. Unfortunately here, it’s fires.”

Evacuation orders were quickly put in effect Friday for 7,500 people – including West, who is 53 and has lived in Weed since he was a 1-year-old. He had never had to evacuate for a fire, but now he’s had to do it twice.

“It’s way worse than it used to be,” he said. “It affects our community because people leave because they don’t want to rebuild.”

Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit Chief Phil Anzo said crews worked all day and night to protect structures in Weed and in a subdivision to the east known as Carrick Addition. He said about 100 structures were destroyed.

Two people were brought to Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta. One was in stable condition and the other was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center, which has a burn unit.

“There’s a lot at stake on that Mill Fire,” Anzo said. “There’s a lot of communities, a lot of homes there.”

Evacuees and firefighters quickly filled up local hotels while others rushed to stay with family and friends outside of the evacuation zone.

Vogelsang was not as fortunate. She said she slept on a bench in Weed until she could get a ride to the evacuation center. She said she’s spent most of the time crying about Bella, her 10-year-old English bulldog who — despite her best efforts — would not follow her out of the fire and is lost.

“My dog was my everything,” she said. “I just feel like I lost everything that mattered.”

___

Associated Press journalist Stefanie Dazio contributed from Los Angeles.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

GOP candidate apologizes after antisemitic post surfaces

A GOP candidate for the Washington Legislature has acknowledged that a post he put on social media in 2020 is antisemitic.
8 hours ago
FILE - Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, arrives to watch Amy Coney B...
Associated Press

Virginia Thomas appears for interview with Jan. 6 panel

WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, appeared on Thursday for a voluntary interview with the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. The committee has for months sought an interview with Thomas in an effort to know more about her role in trying to help […]
1 day ago
Policemen stand guard as demonstrators gather outside Iran's embassy in Oslo, Norway, Thursday, Sep...
Associated Press

Several people try to enter Iranian Embassy in Oslo

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Several people in a violent crowd attempted to enter the Iranian Embassy in Oslo, police said Thursday, with scuffles breaking out and rocks being thrown at officers. Authorities said 90 people had been detained. A crowd had gathered outside the diplomatic mission in Oslo to protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa […]
1 day ago
This photo from Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, shows the Robert B. Docking State Office building in Topek...
Associated Press

States spend federal COVID aid on roads, buildings, seawalls

Standing 14 stories tall, the Docking State Office Building is one of Kansas’ largest and oldest state workplaces. It’s also largely vacant, despite a prime location across from the Capitol. So Kansas officials are planning to spend $60 million of federal pandemic relief funds to help finance its demolition and replace it with a slimmed-down, […]
1 day ago
Wind turbines turn near the village of Feldheim, rear left, near Treuenbrietzen, Germany, Wednesday...
Associated Press

In one tiny German town, nobody worries about energy bills

FELDHEIM, Germany (AP) — Europeans are opening their energy bills with trepidation these days, bracing for hefty price hikes as utility companies pass on the surging cost of natural gas, oil and electricity tied to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Many are trying to conserve by turning down the heat and shutting off lights this winter. […]
1 day ago
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for a second term, waves to supporters during a ...
Associated Press

Brazil election: A clash of titans as Bolsonaro faces Lula

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s presidential election Sunday is being contested by 11 candidates but only two stand a chance of reaching a runoff: former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. Both are political titans, and eight of 10 Brazilians will vote for one of them, according to pollster Datafolha. […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Flashbacks: Charred California town no stranger to wildfire