REDDING (CBS SF) — A growing army of firefighters battled the advancing flames of Fawn Fire northwest of Redding on Friday, making some headway and preventing any additional destruction as the fire closed at 7,000 acres.
Successful defense of many structures has arrived 24 hours after houses burned and cherished memories turned to ashes what authorities believe was a deliberately set fire.
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Cal Fire gave an update on the fire Friday evening, saying it had reached 6,820 acres. The fire was under control by 10 percent.
Engine Captain Chris Harvey of the City of Sacramento Fire Department, who served as the public information officer for Cal Fire regarding the incident, told Fawn Fire that a total of 169 engines, 45 dozers, 35 hand crews and 29 water contracts have now been deployed. a total of 1,663 personnel.
Harvey said a Cal Fire damage investigation team is on its way to Shasta County and will begin assessing the Fawn Fire damage by Saturday morning.
Shane Lauderdale of Cal Fire Incident Management later added that teams “really saved hundreds of structures” by making the preservation of threatened homes a priority on Thursday.
With thousands of structures still under fire threat, especially in the area south of Fawndale at the southern tip of the fire, Lauderdale said they are “in a much better place” thanks to the efforts of the teams Thursday.
“One of our number one priorities for today was to have mats and patrols around all these structures. So we entered today and tonight without losing any more structures,” Lauderdale said.
While no official damage estimate is available, Lauderdale said Friday there were no reports of annexes being burned.
New mandatory evacuation orders were issued by the Shasta County Sheriff at 11:30 a.m. Friday, covering all roads north of the Old Oregon Trail, which includes the area east of Interstate 5 and north of Lake Shasta.
The Shasta County Sheriff had previously issued a warning to those who refused to comply with evacuation orders on Friday morning to stay at home, saying they could be removed by authorities if they were seen in the evacuated areas.
“Now, we’re dealing with some kind of southerly wind this afternoon, so we’ve been a little sloppy with what we’re dealing with right now,” said Jimmy Zanoteli, Shasta County Fire Marshal. We are trying to hit it with tankers, ground support and helicopters,” he said.
Evacuators from their homes, not far from where the fire burned, watched helicopters draw water from Lake Shasta, a jarring depiction of California’s drought.
“It is,” said a woman gawking at the scene. “The lake is drying up. We are experiencing a great drought here.”
Harold Jones owns the Sugarloaf Cottages up I-5 in Lakehead, where the drought has dealt a crushing blow for the second time in just six years.
“It’s almost exactly the same,” Jones said. “In 2014 we were now 165 feet down, today we’re 172 feet down. It’s almost exactly the same.”
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The Fawn Fire is the last devastating fire to escape Californians this year. Fires have burned more than 3,600 square miles so far in 2021, destroying more than 3,200 homes, commercial properties and other structures.
Jones explained that both fires and drought have become a consistent problem.
“It seems like something has always happened over the past few years. If it’s not a pandemic, it’s fires, it’s a drought,” Jones said. “We’re pretty resilient here. We make the most of whatever is thrown in front of us and keep surviving.”
Cal Fire officials said Thursday afternoon they would seek “arson into the wild” charges against 30-year-old Palo Alto resident Alexandra Souverneva.
Fawn Fire arson suspect Alexandra Souverneva of Palo Alto (Shasta County Sheriff’s Office)
JF Shay and employees of Mountain Quarries near where the fire started on Wednesday told investigators they saw a white woman “violating property and acting irrationally.”
On Wednesday evening, firefighters fighting the blaze saw a woman, later identified as Souverneva, emerge from the bush and seek medical attention.
During an interview with Cal Fire and law enforcement, officers came to believe that Souverneva was responsible for setting the fire. He was arrested and placed in Shasta County Prison.
The fire continued on steep and uneven terrain as windy conditions caused the fire to spread in many areas. As the fire broke through control lines, it forced at least 4,000 residents to flee their homes. More than 2000 structures were threatened.
At least 25 structures were burned, including several homes, late Thursday.
Raw video of the destruction left by Fawn Fire
Deb Webb was among those who lost her home. On Thursday evening, he was emotionally devastated by what he saw in what was once his front garden.
“I was told that they (local officials) thought he was gone, but I didn’t know,” she said as tears streamed down her face. “I see my life gone. The memory of everything is gone. My mother is gone, I don’t have her ashes, they are at home. My brother is gone, her ashes are at home.”
“I love it here,” he said. “We have been here since 2006. Well. My husband has cancer. I
It means I worked hard. And then this.”
Deb Webb’s return to her burnt home
The flames continued to rage throughout the night and took an even greater toll. .
The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Mountain Gate community on Thursday morning, and evacuation orders were extended several times Thursday afternoon. Mandatory evictions now include:
- Mountain Gate ensemble
- All trails off the Old Oregon Trail in both directions from north of Bear Mountain to Interstate 5
- All roads north of Akrich on the Old Oregon Trail north of Pine Grove and east of Interstate 5
- All of Holiday Road south of Old Oregon Trail
- All trails east of Dry Creek turn east along the Elk Trail and north into Lake Shasta and back into Dry Creek.
In addition, an evacuation warning has been issued for areas north of SR-299 and east of I-5. Redding police said Code Red notices were issued in that area. Residents who chose to evacuate were advised to head to SR299.
A sanctuary was established in the First Church of the Nazarene at 2255 Bechelli Lane in Redding. The temporary evacuation center at the Shasta College parking lot in Redding was closed as the area was also evacuated.
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Wilson Walker contributed to this story.