Children Rushed From California School as Fire Kicks Up Nearby, 16K Homes at Risk in State

Winds reaching 30 mph aggravated a grass fire in Lake County, California on Wednesday, consuming dozens of mobile homes and injuring a resident before the blaze was contained, according to fire officials.

On Wednesday, a grass fire driven by winds up to 30 mph (48 kph) destroyed dozens of mobile homes in Lake County and injured at least one resident before firefighters stopped its progress, fire officials said at an evening briefing.

Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin ordered roughly 1,600 residents to flee, warning of "immediate threat to life and property." Children at a nearby elementary school were evacuated as the field burned across the street.

Fire officials said at least 16,000 additional homes are threatened by wildfires as 100 blazes burn throughout a dozen Western states. Rows of homes were gutted on at least two blocks, with television footage showing crews putting out the flames.

In the past decade, hundreds of homes have been destroyed in Lake County, which has experienced repeated wildfires.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

CA Wildfires
The wildfire in Northern California continues to grow, so far burning over 626,000 acres according to CalFire. Above, smoke surrounds trees, some sprayed pink with fire retardant, on a hillside during the Dixie Fire on August 18, 2021, near Janesville, California. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images

A small wildfire swept through a mobile home park, leaving dozens of homes in ashes, the latest in a series of explosive blazes propelled by gusts that have torn through Northern California mountains and forests.

The drought-parched region was expected to see red flag warnings for dangerously high winds and hot, dry weather through Thursday.

Those conditions have fed a dozen uncontrolled wildfires, including the month-old Dixie Fire and the nearby Caldor Fire in the northern Sierra Nevada that incinerated much of the small rural towns of Greenville and Grizzly Flats.

No deaths have been reported despite the speed and damage of the blazes.

Tens of thousands of people remain under evacuation orders.

No deaths have been reported, despite the speed and ferocity of the blazes, which have at times created their own erratic winds from heated air swirling into smoke clouds. Flames also have leapfrogged miles ahead of the front lines as winds scattered embers, hot ash and chunks of wood into dry vegetation, said Thom Porter, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"This is not going to end anytime soon," he said of the Dixie Fire. "Everybody's going to be sucking smoke for a long time."

Fire crews were able to make some progress on the Dixie Fire Wednesday, increasing containment to 35 percent, and some evacuation orders were lifted in Plumas and Tehama counties, where some people hadn't seen their homes for a month.

But the Dixie and Caldor fires still menaced many small clusters of homes within and around national forests along with larger communities, including Pollock Pines, with a population of 7,000 and Susanville, population 18,000, which is the seat of Lassen County.

Eldorado National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park were closed.

The Dixie Fire is the first on record to have burned all the way across the Sierra Nevada, starting on the western slopes of the mountain range and moving over the crest to the eastern side. It had burned more than 1,000 square miles (2,590 square kilometers) and was only a third contained.

On Wednesday, dozens of fire engines and crews were transferred from that battle to fight the Caldor Fire, which exploded through heavy timber in steep terrain since erupting over the weekend southwest of Lake Tahoe.

The fire has blackened nearly 220 square miles (570 square kilometers) and on Tuesday ravaged Grizzly Flats, a community of about 1,200.

Dozens of homes burned, according to officials, but tallies were incomplete. Those who viewed the aftermath saw few homes standing. Lone chimneys rose from the ashes, little more than rows of chairs remained of a church and the burned-out husks of cars littered the landscape.

Chris Sheean said the dream home he bought six weeks ago near the elementary school went up in smoke. He felt lucky he and his wife, cats and dog got out safely hours before the flames arrived.

"It's devastation. You know, there's really no way to explain the feeling, the loss," Sheean said. "Maybe next to losing a child, a baby, maybe...Everything that we owned, everything that we've built is gone."

California's wildfires are on pace to exceed the amount of land burned last year—the most in modern history. The blazes also have destroyed areas of the timber belt that serve as a centerpiece of the state's climate reduction plan because trees can store carbon dioxide.

"We are seeing generational destruction of forests because of what these fires are doing," Porter said. "This is going to take a long time to come back from."

Most of the fires this year have hit the northern part of the state, largely sparing Southern California, which was expected to see clouds and even a chance of drizzle in some areas Thursday. Fire conditions in the region are expected to get worse in the fall.

Firefighters CA
Over 16,000 homes are at risk as wildfires continue to rage through Northern California. Above, fire retardant coats a fire truck after the Cache Fire on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Clearlake, California. The blaze destroyed dozens of homes. Noah Berger/AP Photo