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Weed wildfire damage tally hits 200 structures

WEED, Calif.  — Teams of firefighters went house-to-house on Wednesday to pin down damage done by a wildfire that officials estimated had destroyed 110 homes and damaged another 90 when flames swept through the small Northern California town of Weed.

 The figures marked a big increase from the initial estimate that 150 structures had been burned in the blaze that began Monday. Four firefighters lost their homes.

 Elsewhere, a wildfire east of Sacramento kept growing and about 1,000 additional firefighters streamed into the area to bring it under control.

 In Weed, two churches, a community center and the library also burned to the ground, while an elementary school and the city's last wood products mill were damaged by flames that had been pushed by 40 mph winds.

 On Wednesday, firefighters braced for more wind as they battled the 375-acre fire, and insurance companies worked to find places to live for the people who lost their homes.

 The cause of the blaze was under investigation.

 Burned neighborhoods remained off-limits, but people have been finding ways in since the fire started.

 The Rev. Bill Hofer, pastor of Weed Berean Church, said power was back on in his home, which was still standing on the edge of the devastation zone, and he was planning to return Wednesday night — despite the evacuation order — to deter vandalism.

 "The more people home with the lights on, the better," he said.

 At the Roseburg Forest Products veneer mill, workers looked for structural damage to the main manufacturing facility. A maintenance shed was reduced to twisted sheet-metal.

 "We were in the middle of its path," said Kellye Wise, vice president of human resources for the company based in Dillard, Oregon. He said employees also lost homes in the blaze.

 In Pollock Pines, 60 miles east of Sacramento, more than 2,500 firefighters battled the King fire, which grew by thousands of acres overnight and had burned through nearly 29 square miles.

 It was threatening 500 homes, with some under mandatory evacuation orders, and was just 5 percent contained.

 "It's burning in steep, dense terrain with heavy timber that's posing quite a challenge," said Alyssa Smith, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

 In Weed, the temporary closure of the mill came as another blow to a town still suffering from logging cutbacks in the 1990s intended to protect fish and wildlife, said Siskiyou County Supervisor Michael Kobseff.

 With 170 workers, the mill is the second largest employer in Weed, a blue-collar town of 3,000 people in the shadow of Mount Shasta. He said some residents are anxious to rebuild.

 'Then there are others still pretty well devastated," he said. "But I think the community is just trying to pull together and get back on track."

 Near Yosemite National Park, a 320-acre fire that damaged or destroyed 71 structures, including 37 homes, around Oakhurst was 60 percent contained.