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Machine failure may have caused deadly Mill Fire in Siskiyou County

Roseburg Forest Products Co. announced Wednesday that it plans to provide up to $50 million for a community restoration fund for the town of Weed.

WEED, Calif. — A wood products company said Wednesday it's investigating whether a fire that killed two people as it swept through a Northern California town was caused by the possible failure of a water-spraying machine used to cool ash at its veneer mill.

Roseburg Forest Products Co. also said although the investigation was not complete, it was planning to provide up to $50 million for a community restoration fund.

The Mill Fire erupted Sept. 2 at the company's facility in the small town of Weed on Interstate 5, about 280 miles (451 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

Roseburg Forest Products said in a press release its mill produces its own electricity in a co-generation facility fueled by wood remnants, and the ejected ash is sprayed with cooling water by a “third-party-supplied machine.”

“Roseburg is investigating whether the third-party machine failed to cool the ash sufficiently which thereby ignited the fire,” the release said.

Hundreds of people fled as the fire spread, destroying 107 structures and damaging 26 others. The blaze eventually grew to more than 6 square miles (15.5 square kilometers). The fire was 65% contained Wednesday, with minimal activity.

Roseburg said its fund will assist residents with temporary shelter, medical supplies and treatment, transportation, clothing, food and water, and child care services.

In the Sierra, evacuation orders and warnings were in place in Placer and El Dorado counties as the day-old Mosquito Fire grew to nearly 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) with zero containment.

Near the Oregon border, the Mountain Fire covered more than 18 square miles of Siskiyou County and was 30% contained. It began Sept. 2.

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