The Northern California town of Weed, located at the foot of Mount Shasta has been devastated by a wildfire that burned over 100 structures and has left town residents in a state of shock and sadness. Over half of the town’s 3,000 residents were forced to evacuate while homes, churches and the town’s sawmill were consumed by a relentless, wind-driven wildfire that quickly spread across more than 350 acres.
According to a report by the Redding Record Searchlight, the Vice-Mayor of Weed, Ken Palfini described the fire as “devastating” and made the comment that ‘Whole neighborhoods are no longer with us.”
The “Boles Fire” started early on Monday and the 40 mph winds caused it to spread quickly. Some reports indicate the fire started in dry grass, others that a tree near an apartment building caught fire. An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.
Burning embers transported by the wind ignited as far as half a mile away from the original blaze and although by evening the winds had subsided, by then the fire had spread across 350 acres and was only 15 percent contained. By late evening, the fire was further contained but residents were left without power and Suzi Brady from the Sikiyou Unit of Cal-Fire said there were a “lot of sad, scared folks.”
No deaths have been reported and some residents have stated that because the fire started south of the town, they were able to see the smoke and evacuate in time to save lives, if not property. Evacuation orders were in place for not only the town of Weed, but also nearby Carrick and Lake Shastina. To assist residents an evacuation center was opened at the County Fairgrounds in Yreka. While the evacuations were successful, resident Shelagh Price told the Redding Record Searchlight that the process was “absolute madness” and indicated that most people did not know “which direction to go.”
According to a Cal Fire update, as of 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, the Boles Fire has burned at least 375 acres and is 20 percent contained. Three injuries have been reported and at least 1,068 fire personnel, 108 fire engines and 20 fire crews are on the scene. Seven helicopters and 28 bulldozers are in use to assist the crews in their efforts to contain the fire.
The Northern California town of Weed is located about 50 miles south of the Oregon border and approximately 280 miles north of San Francisco. The town, whose slogan is “Weed Like to Welcome You,” was named for Abner Weed who founded the original mill, and it has a long history in the logging industry. However, Weed is also a tourist destination because of its close approximation to numerous state parks as well as fishing opportunities in the Sacramento, Klamath and McCloud Rivers. Weed is also home to the award-winning Mt Shasta Brewing Company, which distributes its Weed beer varieties across California and two other states with the marketing slogan, “Try Legal Weed.”
It was announced this morning that California Governor Jerry Brown has secured funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist fire agencies working on the Boles Fire and those funds will be used to reimburse the costs of fighting the fire. Although the town of Weed has been devastated by the fire, which destroyed over 100 homes and is still not fully contained, there has been no loss of life reported. The loss of property, the irreplaceable family memorabilia and the financial and emotional stress caused by the fire is significant. However, once the fire is extinguished and the damage assessed, the close-knit residents of Weed will no doubt pull together and rebuild their community.
By Alana Marie Burke