Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Redding Fire in Town

UPDATED: Redding fire under control, power back for most customers.
A wind-whipped wildfire charred 130 acres in the heart of Redding today, burning within 20 yards of the Sundial Bridge and causing evacuations along Hilltop Drive.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 customers lost power this afternoon while Redding Electric Utility crews worked to reroute electricity from the Sulphur Creek Substation, at the bottom of Market Street near the fire, an REU spokesman said. By this evening most had power restored. Swirling north winds — with gusts up to 30 mph clocked at the Redding Municipal Airport at the time of the fire — fanned the flames from where they started at about 11 a.m. on Sulphur Creek Hill across the four lanes and a median on North Market Street.

From there the fire spread up toward homes, apartments and condominiums on Hilltop Drive and into the Turtle Bay Exploration Park’s McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, and prompted the evacuation of Turtle Bay Elementary School where classes were in session. The encroaching fire also caused the evacuation of residences along the Hilltop Drive’s west side as it winds above the Sacramento River. Crowds gathered at vistas along Hilltop to watch the fire’s fast spread below as it pushed toward the Sacramento River and the Sundial Bridge.

Fire crews had the fire contained by 4 p.m., five hours after it started, he said. More than 300 firefighters and 45 fire engines, as well as air tankers and helicopters in the air and bulldozers on the ground, fought the fire.