Future uncertain for Northwest wildfire victims

Michelle Patience and her 7-month-old daughter.
CBS News

(CBS News) RED BLUFF, Calif. - There is a new front line in the battle against wildfires. More than 40 large fires are burning across the west. The fiercest may be north of Sacramento, Calif., where flames have destroyed at least seven homes and are threatening thousands more.

There's about 1,400 firefighters are working very hard to keep this wild fire away from about 3,500 homes.

The fire has moved quickly through stands of dry pine. The smoke has climbed thousands of feet into the air and stretches more than 130 miles to the Oregon border.

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Mike Carr, a Battalion fire chief, said battling the fire has been particularly challenging because of the dry weather.

"The heat, the terrain, the very dry field conditions -- weather conditions have been dry for many months," Carr said.

Dry weather is making it difficult for firefighters contain rapidly expanding blazes north of Sacramento, Calif.
Dry weather is making it difficult for firefighters contain rapidly expanding blazes north of Sacramento, Calif.
CBS News

The fire has been pushed along with gusts as high as 35 miles per hour.

"Within literally minutes that fire went from 3 to 5 to 20 to 100 acres and then to thousands of acres," Carr said.

The wildfire has raced across 23 square miles since Saturday.

Michelle Patience and her husband David grabbed 7-month-old Danna Lee and whatever else they could web the family fled their home in the middle of the night. Michelle said she's not sure if her home is still standing.

"I grabbed her diapers, her brand new box of wipes, pretty much any food I could fit in the little freezer bag we have," Michelle said. "You could see the glow from the fire and you could see the smoke - like a mushroom cloud -- almost like when a bomb goes off."

Dangerous conditions have kept firefighters from fully assessing the damage. It could be days until the Patience family and thousands of other residents know what's left.

"It makes me a little uneasy not to be able to know if I'm going to have a home to take my daughter to," Michelle said.

Firefighters say this fire is very unpredictable and they are very worried about the winds kicking up overnight and pushing the flames even further.