REDDING (CBS SF/AP) — Darlene Sherill and her husband had found a piece of paradise along the eastern shoreline of Shasta Lake. The Danville couple bought their cabin last November and filled it with home-built furniture, making it a wilderness retreat for their large family.
But then the Salt Fire roared through their Gregory Creek Acres neighborhood. The cabin was among the dozens of buildings and homes to fall victim to the flames.
“It feels very much like a violation to have a fire come to your home and destroy it, probably within minutes,” Sherrill told the San Francisco Chronicle by phone from a Redding hotel on Friday.
Brian Moessmer was forced from his home in Lakehead and was hoping it survives the flames.
“I have never been this close to a fire and been at danger of losing my place and animals like this before,” he said.
There was also growing anxiety for Tim Grubb.
“I’m real concerned, the wind is coming up and the flames aren’t too far away,” he said as he sprayed down his home with a garden hose.
The Salt Fire had grown to nearly 8 square miles with just 5 percent containment. Authorities suspect that it started from a hot piece of metal flew off a car or truck on Interstate 5 but they haven’t found the vehicle.
Severe to extreme drought conditions have left the heavily wooded region extremely vulnerable to wildfires.
“Fuel conditions this year are looking a lot more like late August than early July,” said Adrienne Freeman, a spokeswoman for Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
— Downriver (@Downriver5) July 3, 2021
The Salt Fire was just one of the three major blazes burning along the I-5 corridor in Northern California.
The largest blaze, the Lava Fire was burning partly on the flanks of Mount Shasta and was 27% contained after growing to more than 37 square miles.
The blaze, caused by a lightning strike, forced several thousand people from their homes but most were allowed to return late Thursday.
The Tennant Fire in the Klamath National Forest had burned five buildings, including two homes, and threatened several hundred more. It grew slightly to more than 15 square miles but progress was also reported there and it was 17% surrounded.
Mop-up began on the western flank while the east side remained active. Evacuation orders and warnings continued in nearby areas.
California is bracing for what some experts fear will be one of its worst fire seasons yet.
Last year, wildfires scorched more than 6,562 square miles in California, the most in its recorded history. And just three years ago, a fire in Butte County in Northern California killed 85 people and largely destroyed the town of Paradise.
This year, many of California’s national parks have restrictions on campfires, cooking and smoking because of fire risks in the hot, dry summer. The parks are bracing for large crowds over the holiday weekend.
Highs in the area on Saturday and Sunday were expected to hit the mid-to-upper 90s despite a slight chance of morning thunderstorms. Those storms, ironically, could cause erratic winds that may complicate firefighting. National Weather Service forecasters also warned that some areas could see late afternoon gusts that could fuel flames.