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Thousands flee California wildfire

September 3, 2022

A fast-moving wildfire in northern California has forced thousands of people from their homes. The so-called Mill Fire is moving at a "dangerous rate of speed," officials have said.

A burned car stands amid debris in the aftermath of the Mill Fire, in Weed, California, US on September 3, 2022
Years of drought in the US West are leading to longer and more intense fire seasonsImage: Fred Greaves/REUTERS

Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate their homes in northern California on Friday as a rapidly spreading wildfire continued to burn across more than 4,000 acres (around 1,620 hectares).

According to local fire authorities, the so-called Mill Fire has destroyed more than 100 homes in Siskiyou County, nearly 230 miles (370 km) north of Sacramento.

The blaze led officials to issue mandatory evacuation orders for the towns of Weed, Lake Shastina and Edgewood.

"Immediate threat to life. This is a lawful order to leave now. The area is lawfully closed to public access," the evacuation order said.

Local emergency declared

California Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for Siskiyou County, which will help residents access federal aid and unlock state resources.

Two people were injured, officials said, and were taken to the hospital — one of them was transferred to another facility that has a burn unit.

Weed councilwoman Sue Tavalero said the Mill Fire began at a lumber mill north of the town and rapidly burned through homes in nearby Lincoln Heights, prompting the evacuation measures.

"I don't know how many. I'm positive several homes have been lost," she said.

Videos and images of the fast-moving fire have been shared widely on social media, with one video showing a time-lapse view over a 45-minute period.

The fire comes as the region experiences high temperatures, with some areas reaching 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit).

"September is off to a searing start in the West with record-breaking temperatures and fire weather expected to expand and settle over that part of the country this Labor Day weekend," the National Weather Service said in its daily bulletin, referring to the Labor Day holiday in the US on Monday.

Siskiyou is heavily forested and has been at the receiving end of a number of forest fires over the past few years. An ongoing drought in the American West has allowed for more destructive fires.

Most scientists believe global warming is causing natural weather events to become more extreme.

mm, kb/sms (AFP, AP)