Calif. Blaze Destroys Scores of Homes

A wildfire destroyed at least 67 homes in a subdivision near Shasta Lake (search) and forced hundreds of people to flee, officials said Thursday.

The blaze, started by sparks from a lawn mower, scorched 7,500 acres by Thursday evening, said Mel Cagel, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry (search). The fire was 50 percent contained.

The 67 homes were in a subdivision just south of Lake Shasta and east of Redding, said CDF spokesman Jim Sweet.

Hundreds of people were have been evacuated from the vast area threatened by the fire and a shelter was set up at a nearby community college. They have evacuated at least 390 homes. Two firefighters had minor injuries.

Alphonso and Shelley Barrera were forced to leave their new home so quickly they left their dog behind.

"The flames were about 50 feet high; they were coming through the ravine," Alphonso Barrera said.

The fire spread from 100 acres to 800 acres in less than four hours Wednesday, branching toward the Silverthorn Resort on the southeast end of Lake Shasta.

Sue Collins, Silverthorn's manager, said fire officials evacuated about 150 people from the area near the marina. Some were taken by boat to another marina, she said, while others moved to a dock away from fuel tanks.

The resort, which includes cabins, a small restaurant and 54 houseboats, had a view of the flames, Collins said.

"It was real close," she said. "We are out of danger now, but there's always a possibility that the wind will change again."

Firefighters were fighting the blaze amid temperatures that climbed above 100 degrees for a second straight day. More fire crews arrived overnight, bringing the number of personnel on scene to more than 1,600. Air tankers and helicopters were again on the scene.

Officials cited the lawn mower operator, and the person might be held responsible for the costs of suppressing the fire, Colburn said.

In 1999, the area was hit by a 26,200-acre fire that destroyed 174 homes and was one of the state's worst. Shasta Lake is in north central California.

Elsewhere, residents were driven from their homes by wildfires near two communities in central Washington state as firefighters worked in hot, dry conditions. Active wildfires have burned across more than 50,000 acres in Washington. No homes have been lost.

Seven homes were evacuated northwest of Yakima after a wildfire grew to about 3,000 acres Thursday, said Dale Warriner, fire information officer. Farther north, authorities ordered additional evacuations Thursday near a fire burning about 20 miles northwest of Wenatchee. About 20 homes in two canyons remained evacuated, and about a dozen residents in a third canyon were ordered to leave.