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CalFire offers $10,000 reward for information on cause of Weed blaze

WEED — California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials working on the 375-acre that torched more than 150 structures and forced thousands of Northern California residents to flee their homes are now putting up a reward for anyone with information on how the fire started.

Firefighters aren't saying they think the fire was necessarily human-caused, just that it is a possibility. They're hoping the reward money — up to $10,000 according to the agency's website — will also help them eliminate possible causes.

"What we do is try to take away what did not happen," said Scott McLean, Cal Fire battalion chief and north region public information officer. "It's another tool in the toolbox, if you will."

The fire is 375 acres in size, unchanged from Tuesday's estimate. Crews currently have a containment line drawn fully around the fire perimeter, but still only consider the fire 25 percent contained because of the intense heat and embers that remain inside the line.

"We have a lot of hot spots within the perimeter of that fire we need to take care of," McLean said.

He added the amount of damaged structures adds a different element to suppression efforts. Flammable materials that haven't burned yet could be buried in the rubble, and flare-ups on damaged structures make for additional danger for crews. More than 900 firefighters remain on scene to start moving into the perimeter for mop up, the Cal Fire website shows. They are assisted by 72 fire engines, five helicopters, eight dozers and 10 water tenders.

And if today's weather forecast for the area is any indication, prime conditions those flare-ups could kick in today. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for much of Northern California from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, according to its website. The areas of concern include Siskiyou County from the Cascades east and south to Mt. Shasta and Modoc County, except for Surprise Valley. The Klamath Basin and Fremont-Winema National Forest are also included in the warning.

Predicted south-southwest winds up to 30 mph with 40 mph gusts and low humidity on parched terrain prompted the warning for an area already mottled by flames. 

A new evacuation center for displaced residents is now located at the Mt. Shasta Armory. Highway 97 remains closed 42 miles south of the Oregon-California border because of the fire, per the Oregon Department of Transportation. There is no estimated reopening date.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.