Northern California blaze claims 37 homes, rages uncontrolled

Monday, September 27th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HAPPY VALLEY, Calif. (AP) -- Wind-whipped flames burned across
2,000 acres, gutting 37 homes and forcing the evacuation of up to
700 people from a rural area of northern California.

Dozens of evacuees from Happy Valley, nine miles south of
Redding, spent the night in a cafeteria at nearby Anderson Union
High School as an estimated 380 firefighters fought the blaze in
Shasta County about 21/2 hours north of Sacramento.

Tom Sumner, his wife, Linda, and daughter, Stephanie, 19, left
their home and two of their cats behind.

"There was fire all the way around (our home)," Sumner said.
"I've been asking the sheriff what's going on. ... I was just told
that I can't go home."

The fire started Sunday morning as three separate blazes that
merged in brush and scrub timber north of town, officials said. The
cause was unknown.

Wind blew flames toward the edge of town and made the situation
"highly volatile," said California Department of Forestry
spokeswoman Sharon Wages.

By 3 a.m. today, officials estimated the blaze was 65 percent
surrounded by fire lines, but strong wind during the night
threatened to spread it again. Forecasters expected the wind to
abate later in the day.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries. One was treated for
smoke inhalation and the other was hospitalized for fatigue and

In addition to homes, the fire destroyed 40 other structures
including sheds and outbuildings, plus 15 vehicles.

Just north of Redding, high wind expected Sunday didn't
materialize as firefighters continued to battle a series of
lightning-triggered wildfires in California's Trinity Alps
Wilderness that have burned more than 60,000 acres.

On the central California coast, another group of fires had
burned 42,454 acres in the Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres
National Forest. Two of the blazes are estimated to be weeks away
from containment, CDF spokesman Tony Akin said.

The Big Sur-area fires alone have cost more than $27 million to
fight since they were started by lightning Sept. 8.