Residents of this historic mining town surveyed the scorched ruins of their community Monday, two days after a wildfire destroyed 22 houses and two commercial buildings while blackening more than 9,000 acres in Northern California.
French Gulch, founded by French miners during the gold rush, was a boom town in the mid-1800s but has since become a quiet enclave of white picket fences and old wooden homes where retirees mingle with commuters traveling to jobs in Redding, about 19 miles to the west.
On Saturday, two walls of flame blew through, forcing a hurried evacuation of residents and destroying nearly a sixth of the town's buildings. Residents called it the worst disaster in the town's 155-year history.
"Oh, they'll rebuild," said Postmaster Karen Adams, reopening the post office for those who did not flee the flames. "They're like a family here. Some of these families have been in town for generations."
By Monday afternoon, the fire had consumed more than 9,010 acres of timber and brush and continued to burn to the north. Fire officials predicted it would not be fully contained until Friday.
The blaze moved into heavily timbered canyons dotted with silver and gold mines, said Dottie Cary of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
"What's hampering us now is the topography," Cary said. "With the rattlesnakes, it adds to the problems."
Crews used hand tools and bulldozers to dig a line around part of the fire and set backfires to remove fuel from its path.
Firefighters managed to save a church, post office, elementary school, hotel "and, of course, the bar," Cary said.
The fire's cause was under investigation. No injuries were reported.
Elsewhere in California, a 10,400-acre fire that destroyed 80 homes, 30 outbuildings and 10 vehicles in the hills south of Shasta Lake, about 140 miles northwest of Sacramento, was contained Monday, officials said.
In central Washington, firefighters battled a fierce wildfire in the community of Dryden. Forecasts called for temperatures as high as 100 degrees, low humidity and increasing winds with the threat of thunderstorms.