YREKA, Calif. — Authorities battling wind-whipped fires that have forced the evacuation of thousands of people in Northern California said Sunday that the blazes had claimed at least two lives.
“I have the job of sharing some sad news,” Jeremiah LaRue, the Siskiyou County sheriff-coroner, told a community meeting on Sunday in Montague, a town north of the fires. He asked for a moment of silence. “We have lost two people to this fire. There’s no easy way of putting that.”
In an interview after the meeting, Sheriff LaRue said that the victims were both women, ages 66 and 73, and that they were not related.
The news of the deaths came as firefighters struggled for a third day to vanquish the flames. The Mill fire, which erupted on Friday near a defunct lumber mill in the town of Weed, Calif., has consumed more than 4,200 acres there and in nearby communities and destroyed at least 100 homes. local officials said. Among the devastated areas has been the Lincoln Heights area of Weed, a historically Black community that was founded by Black mill workers in the 1920s.
Witnesses said the fire, whipped by howling winds and red-flag conditions, exploded so suddenly that there was scarcely time to evacuate. By Sunday afternoon, it was 25 percent contained.
The Mill fire was the first of two substantial blazes to ignite on Friday in Siskiyou County, near the Oregon border. As of Sunday afternoon, the larger Mountain fire had raced through more than 8,400 acres and was only about 10 percent contained.