This has already been a bad year for wildfires along much of the drought-parched West Coast—but "bad" doesn't even begin to describe the catastrophe that struck the small northern California lumber town of Weed this week after a quarter of the town burned to the ground in the space of a few hours.
According to officials, the Boles Fire consumed 150 buildings in the Siskiyou County town (population 2,967) at the base of Mt. Shasta and halfway between San Francisco and Portland—including two churches, a library, an elementary school and part of the town's high school and part a lumber mill—the town's largest employer.
The wildfire started in a grassy area just to the east of town on Monday afternoon, but spread so fast by 45 mile per hour winds that it destroyed several homes before firefighters even had a chance to get there.
The relatively small (375 acre) but extremely intense fire left little standing in its wake except smoldering ruins and lumps of melted metal where cars and appliances stood. Many houses and businesses that were untouched by the inferno were splattered pink by fire retardant dropped by firefighting aircraft.
"It's the most horrible thing I've ever seen to hit town," said Dale Anzo, 44, who has lived in Weed for most of his life and whose house is three doors down from where the blaze's advance was stopped. "It looks like a bomb went off in the middle of it. I feel so bad for my neighbors, for all of us."
Officials say that as of Thursday morning, the Boles Fire was 65 percent contained, but still threatened another 1,000 homes and 100 businesses and evacuation orders remain in effect for much of Weed as the bone-dry and windy conditions continue, although authorities have reopened Highway 97—the main route through town.
Fortunately, there haven't been any serious injuries reported from the blaze.
Images via Getty