Calif. Wildfire Destroys 20 Homes

A wind-fueled wildfire roared through an old mining town near Redding on Sunday, destroying 20 homes and forcing nearly 125 residents to flee, officials said.

The blaze broke out Saturday afternoon and quickly grew to 2,500 acres, sweeping through the mountain community of French Gulch, about 20 miles east of Redding, said Linda Galvan, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire threatened nearly 100 homes and destroyed two commercial buildings.

"It didn't take long for this one to move through," Galvan said. "The winds are very erratic and going in every direction."

About 450 personnel worked to contain the fire, which was burning out of control and could expand to 5,000 acres by late Sunday morning, officials said. Firefighters were able to save several buildings, including a church, post office and elementary school, from the flames.

The cause was still under investigation.

Firefighters were pulled from another wildfire that began Wednesday when a lawnmower struck a rock in dry grass, setting off a blaze that cut through the pine and oak-covered hills south of Shasta Lake, about 140 miles northwest of Sacramento.

By midday Saturday, that fire had blackened 9,922 acres and destroyed 80 homes, 30 outbuildings and 10 vehicles. It was 80 percent contained, and firefighters expected full containment by Monday evening, said Roy Del Carlo, a fire protection spokesman.

Most residents who were evacuated were allowed to return to their homes.

In central Washington, firefighters worked to gain the upper hand on several wildfires Saturday as forecasters predicted new lightning strikes this weekend.

Authorities ordered a new round of evacuations late Saturday after a wildfire in Dryden grew to more than 2,100 acres and burned across a road. About 100 homes were threatened, but it was not immediately clear how many people were ordered to leave.

About 70 firefighters were assigned to a fire about 40 miles west of Yakima. The lightning-caused fire has burned about 590 acres in an area that had not burned for 60 years.

Northwest of Yakima, residents of seven homes that had been evacuated along a mountain road were allowed to return Friday night. A nearby fire estimated at about 4,200 acres was reported fully contained by Saturday evening.