Blaze Destroys 20 Homes in California

An out-of-control wildfire (search) roared through an old mining town in the Northern California mountains Sunday, destroying 20 homes and forcing nearly 300 residents to flee, officials said.

The blaze, less than a day old, grew to 3,000 acres and could quickly reach 5,000 acres, officials said. It was only about 10 percent contained.

Nearly 100 homes and 20 other buildings were threatened and two commercial buildings were destroyed in French Gulch (search), about 20 miles east of Redding.

"It didn't take long for this one to move through. The winds are very erratic and going in every direction," said Linda Galvan, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (search).

About 1,155 personnel worked to contain the fire, and several buildings — including a church, post office and elementary school — had been saved 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 of Shasta Lake, about 140 miles northwest of Sacramento.

By early Sunday, that fire had blackened 10,400 acres and destroyed 80 homes, 30 outbuildings and 10 vehicles. It was 95 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 home.

In central Washington, firefighters worked Sunday to gain the upper hand on several wildfires 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.