[env-trinity] TRINITY COUNTY: Historic town out of dange, Crews get handle on Weaverville blaze

Josh Allen jallen at trinitycounty.org
Wed Aug 2 08:52:25 PDT 2006

Historic town out of danger 
Crews get handle on Weaverville blaze

Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer <mailto:dbulwa at sfchronicle.com> 

Tuesday, August 1, 2006




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(08-01) 04:00 PDT Weaverville, Trinity County -- Firefighters were on
their way Monday to surrounding flames that reached to the edge of this
historic gold-mining town, bringing relief to 3,500 residents who
survived a blaze five years ago that swept through some of the same
rugged hills and canyons. 

"Everything went really well overnight," Jason Martin, a spokesman for
the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Monday.
"The winds died down, and the fire followed suit. That let firefighters
put a stranglehold on this nasty little sucker." 

The Junction Fire was 70 percent contained Monday night after burning
3,126 acres over two days. Evacuation orders were lifted and a downtown
lined with buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places
was no longer threatened. Full containment was expected by this evening.

Less than a mile west of the downtown strip, three firefighters from
Shasta County were stationed outside the hillside home of Ron Fisher, a
49-year-old plumber, when they got a call at 10 a.m. Monday. 

"We've been reassigned," firefighter Rob Leal, 28, told Fisher,
indicating the danger had passed. 

Fisher lost his home in 2001 to the Oregon Fire, which destroyed nine
houses, prompted a citywide evacuation and led firefighters to form a
wall around Weaverville's downtown. After a few months, Fisher and a
longtime friend and neighbor agreed that they would both rebuild, using
fire-resistant roofs and concrete siding. 

"I never thought this would happen again," Fisher said. 

The area around his house, once thick with fir, pine and oak trees, is
less fire-friendly now. The 2001 blaze took out much of the timber, and
some of the remaining trees are burned skeletons. Martin said
firefighters had been helped in recent days by the lack of fuel. 

The Junction Fire started just outside Junction City along Highway 299,
which connects Redding and Eureka and was temporarily closed. The fire's
cause is not yet known. 

The blaze burned east over Oregon Summit toward Weaverville, sending up
smoke that filled the air nearly 100 miles away. By Monday evening, the
fire had destroyed one structure and had cost an estimated $2.3 million
to fight. Four firefighters had suffered minor injuries. 

The forestry department said a blaze that gutted a downtown restaurant
Saturday evening was unrelated to the wildfire, though many residents
said they suspected an ember from that fire had dropped from the sky and
done the job. 

Weaverville, founded by gold miners in 1850, has quite a fire history --
most of it ancient. A plaque outside the red-brick New York Hotel
building states that it "burned in the town fire of 1859" and "was
gutted by the big fire of 1863." 

Some downtown structures are built to collapse in a fire, the idea being
to smother a blaze before it can spread. And since the 2001 fire, many
residents have kept valuables packed together to prepare for quick

Jan Saxon, 46, bought the Weaverville Drug Store in January, when it was
the oldest active pharmacy in California. She renovated the building and
converted it into a flower, candy and gift shop called Kudos, betting
that lightning would not strike twice in five years. 

"We figured it wasn't going to burn for another 100 years," Saxon said
of Weaverville. "Once the downtown goes, there's nothing here." 

E-mail Demian Bulwa at dbulwa at sfchronicle.com. 

Page B - 3

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