Dueling Northern California wildfires, high temperatures challenge fire crews


(WEED, Calif.) — As firefighters appeared to be getting a handle Sunday on a wildland fire that damaged or destroyed more than 100 structures in a Northern California town, another blaze burning in the same county was giving fire crews new challenges, officials said.

The Mill Fire burning near Weed, California, in Siskiyou County near the Oregon border, was 25% contained Sunday after burning 4,254 acres since igniting on Friday, according to Cal Fire officials.

Another fire burning in Siskiyou County, the Mountain Fire, is now presenting fire crews with more concerns after growing overnight from roughly 4,800 acres to 6,451 acres, according to Cal Fire. The Mountain Fire, which was only 5% contained Sunday, forced the evacuations of more than 300 people living in the remote rural area of Siskiyou County, officials said.

Winds on the ridges of the Mountain Fire were of particular concern for firefighters, who feared they could spread burning embers and ignite spot fires, according to Cal Fire’s update Sunday on the blaze.

Firefighters are battling the dueling fires amid triple-digit heat.

“Weather continues to be hot and dry with poor overnight relative humidity recoveries,” Cal Fire said Sunday.

The agency said firefighters will remain focused on defending structures and expanding containment lines around the two blazes.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Siskiyou County to support the response to the fires.

The mayor of Weed, meanwhile, reported new details on the Mill Fire, which ravaged her town of more than 2,600 people, injuring several people as they fled the flames and damaging or destroying at least 132 structures, including many homes.

Mayor Kim Greene told ABC news the Mill Fire started Friday in an old warehouse at the town’s lumber mill, the Roseburg Forest Products, which sits near a park and a cluster of homes she said were nearly all destroyed.

“My coworker’s husband ran in and said, ‘There’s a fire,"” Greene recalled. “By the time we go out the front door to see, (there) was just a big puff of black smoke. You could hear the small explosions.”

Fanned by 30 mph winds, Greene said the blaze quickly spread, jumped a set of train tracks and swept into a neighborhood.

Green said many people had only minutes to escape. An ABC News crew observed several walkers and wheelchairs abandoned along streets as people fled for their lives. Numerous vehicles sat charred in roadways and driveways of homes completely destroyed.

The Mill Fire, according to Cal Fire, caused more than 1,000 people to be evacuated.

While firefighters got a break from the high winds on Saturday, but high temperatures continue to be a challenge, Cal Fire officials said. Temperatures are expected to dip to the low 90s on Sunday, officials said.

Capt. Robert Foxworthy of Cal Fire said the high temperatures are forcing firefighters to take precautions to protect themselves physically.

“It makes it a little bit tougher physically on those firefighters that are working on the ground,” Foxworthy told ABC News. “You have them making sure they are hydrating and making sure they are getting good rest cycles, making sure those folks are getting good meals and nutrition so when they do go and work on these fires in those conditions, they are the best they can be to deal with those conditions.”

ABC News’ Alex Presha and Alyssa Pone contributed to this report.

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