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Firefighters save hotel from fast-moving brush fire
Fires break out across state amid hot, dry conditions
Taylor Road fire 1
Keyes firefighters spray down trees that caught fire right next to the hotel (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

A fire that started in a field of brush along Taylor Road quickly spread to the freeway embankment and threatened a nearby hotel before firefighters brought the flames under control Friday evening.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Friday reports came in of a fire near the Best Western hotel on Taylor Road near the Highway 99 on ramp.

According to Keyes Fire Chief Royjindar Singh, the fire is suspected of starting in a drainage pond located adjacent to the hotel to the north. Homeless individuals have camped there, but it is unknown if the camp had anything to do with the source of the fire.

Taylor Road fire 2
The Denair Fire Department uses its ladder truck to help stop a brush fire that spread to tall palm trees between the Best Western hotel on Taylor Road and the nearby Highway 99 (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

The grass fire quickly spread to a little less of an acre of land including the highway embankment and landscaped areas of the hotel. Palm trees surrounding the north end of the hotel caught fire and embers drifted toward the hotel, but firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading to the building, said Singh.

“We were lucky it wasn’t windy. If it was windier, we would have had damage to the hotel,” said Singh.

Assisting Keyes Fire were crews from Denair, Turlock Rural, Hughson, Mountain View, Westport, Turlock City and Modesto Fire departments.

Having the resources from allied agencies stopped the fire spreading to the building, said Singh.

Turlock wasn’t the only area in the state battling fires this week.

A fast-moving wildfire in rural Northern California injured several people Friday, destroyed multiple homes and forced thousands of residents to flee, jamming roadways at the start of a sweltering Labor Day weekend.

The blaze dubbed the Mill Fire started on or near the property of Roseburg Forest Products, a plant that manufactures wood veneers. It quickly burned through homes, pushed by 35-mph (56-kph) winds, and by evening had engulfed 4 square miles (10.3 square kilometers) of ground.

Annie Peterson said she was sitting on the porch of her home near the Roseburg facility when "all of a sudden we heard a big boom and all that smoke was just rolling over toward us."

Very quickly her home and about a dozen others were on fire. She said members of her church helped evacuate her and her son, who is immobile. She said the scene of smoke and flames looked like "the world was coming to an end."

Many places in the area were also without power. About 9,000 customers, many of them in Weed, were hit with electrical outages shortly before 1 p.m., according to electric power company PacifiCorp, which said they were due to the wildfire.

Suzi Brady, a Cal Fire spokeswoman, said several people were injured.

Meanwhile, a second fire that erupted a few miles north of the Mill Fire near the community of Gazelle had burned 600 acres (243 hectares) acres and prompted some evacuations.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Siskyou County and said a federal grant had been received "to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the fire."

California is in the grip of a prolonged drought and now a brutal heat wave that is taxing the power grid as people try to stay cool. Residents have been asked for three consecutive days to conserve power during late afternoon and evening hours when energy consumption is highest.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. In the last five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive fires in state history.

Southern California saw two large fires break out earlier in the week. The last evacuation orders for those were being lifted around the time the Mill Fire started midday Friday. Flames spread fast and about 7,500 people were under evacuation orders that covered the small city of Weed and surrounding areas, which are about 250 miles (402 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

Dr. Deborah Higer, medical director at the Shasta View Nursing Center, said all 23 patients at the facility were evacuated, with 20 going to local hospitals and three staying at her own home, where hospital beds were set up.

Containment of the Route Fire along Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles increased to 56% and it remained at just over 8 square miles (21 square kilometers), a Cal Fire statement said. On Wednesday, seven firefighters working in triple-digit temperatures had to be taken to hospitals for treatment of heat illnesses. All were released.

In eastern San Diego County, the Border 32 Fire remained at just under 7 square miles (18 square kilometers) and containment increased to 65%. More than 1,500 people had to evacuate the area near the U.S.-Mexico border when the fire erupted Wednesday. All evacuations were lifted by Friday afternoon.

Two people were hospitalized with burns. Three homes and seven other buildings were destroyed.

—                  The Associated Press contributed to this report.