Two Dead After Wildfire Rips Through Northern California Town

by Craig Garrett

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said that two people have died after wildfires destroyed parts of a Northern California town. LaRue announced the fatalities to concerned citizens at a community meeting Sunday afternoon, the Associated Press reports. The small Northern California town of Weed was devastated by one of California’s most recent wildfires. He didn’t share any names or additional details about the two deceased people, including their age or gender.

Both LaRue and other officials acknowledged concerns in the community. Residents wanted to know when they would be permitted to return home and if electricity will be restored. Sunday saw around 1,000 people remain under evacuation orders as firefighters attempted to contain the inferno. The wildfire erupted out of control on Friday during the holiday weekend.

Two wildfires are being fought in the area. Though the Mill Fire hadn’t expanded since early Saturday morning, only having grown to encompass around 6.6 square miles (17 kilometers), it was still raging with 25% containment according to Cal Fire reports. While not as large, the Mountain Fire- which started just Friday- had begun showing growth and tasked officials on Sunday. Evacuation orders remained in place for over 300 citizens residing near the blaze

Residents are taking stock of the damage wildfires have caused

The morning after evacuation orders were lifted for thousands of other residents, the town of Weed was left feeling empty due to power outages, smoky skies, and uncertainty about what the day would bring. “It’s eerily quiet,” said Susan Tavalero, a city councilor. Tavalero was driving to a meeting with fire officials. 

She was joined by Mayor Kim Greene. The two hoped to get a better understanding of how many homes had been lost. A total of 132 structures were destroyed or damaged, fire officials said Sunday. However, it wasn’t clear whether they were residences, businesses, or other buildings. Three people were injured, according to Cal Fire; no additional details have been released at this time. Two individuals were taken to Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta, according to Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit Chief Phil Anzo. One was in good condition and the other was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center, which has a burn unit. It’s unclear if these injuries are connected to the fatalities reported Sunday.

Weed is no stranger to wildfires

Fire has been a devastating problem in Weed, California for many years. This year alone, three major wildfires have destroyed homes and businesses across the state. With only 3,000 residents, this rural community is no stranger to disaster. Phil Anzo, Cal Fire’s Siskiyou Unit Chief, knows firsthand the toll these fires have taken on the region. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen lots of fires in this community, Anzo said. “We’ve seen lots of fires in this county, and we’ve suffered lots of devastation.”

Since he has resided in Weed, Donatique Mathes, 37, said he has experienced a number of close calls with blazes. He is not interested in leaving despite the fact that fire risks are on the rise.“It’s a beautiful place,” Mathes 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 [wildfires].”