A fire believed to have started at a lakeside campground burned a three-mile-wide swath for 20 miles in Northern California's Shasta County, destroying as many as 100 houses and driving more than 1,000 people from their homes, state and federal fire officials said.
The 25,000-acre blaze roared down out of Jones Valley, exploding houses, melting cars and leaving telephone poles dangling in midair, hanging from the wires they were supposed to support. It hit and missed homes according to no discernible pattern.
It looked, one woman said, "like an ungodly sunrise."
The fire was the worst of several wildfires burning throughout the state today in a fire season that is fast becoming one of the worst in state history. Approximately 660,000 acres have burned this year, state officials estimated.
Officials attributed the heavy fire season to consecutive hot, dry summers.
The cause of the Jones fire was not determined. It started about 4 a.m. Saturday in a Shasta Lake campground northeast of Redding and picked up speed on the hot dry winds that swirled through the afternoon.
More than 1,150 firefighters fought the blaze, which officials estimated was 50 percent contained tonight.
Volunteer firefighter Karen Savage, a 44-year-old mother of three, was killed when she was struck by a fire truck. No other injuries have been reported, in part because of the rapid evacuation of several small towns east of Redding.