Harmful Circumstances Complicate Wildfire Struggle in Western US | California Information
BLY, Ore. (AP) – Irregular winds and parched forests in Oregon heightened the threats to firefighters as they battled the largest wildfire in the United States, one of dozen that burned in several western states, Monday.
The destructive Bootleg Fire was considered one of the largest in modern Oregon history and burned more than 1,210 square kilometers, an area the size of Los Angeles. The fire north of the California border was 25% contained.
Meteorologists were predicting critically dangerous fire weather through at least Monday, with lightning bolts being possible in both California and southern Oregon.
“With the very dry fuels, any thunderstorm has the potential to ignite new fires,” said the National Weather Service in Sacramento, California, on Twitter.
Thousands of people have already faced evacuation orders, including about 2,000 people living in the mostly rural areas of lakes and wildlife sanctuaries near the fire that burned at least 67 houses and 100 outbuildings and threatened many more.
Extremely dry conditions and heat waves related to climate change have inundated the region and made fighting forest fires difficult. Climate change has made the west much warmer and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.
Firefighters said in July they were facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall.
Pyrocumulus clouds – literally translated as “clouds of fire” – hampered containment efforts for the Dixie Fire in Northern California on Sunday, as well as flames that spread to remote areas with steep terrain that are harder for crews to reach, officials said. New evacuation orders have been issued in rural communities near Feather River Canyon.
The Dixie Fire remained 15% contained and covered 29 square miles (74 square kilometers). The fire is northeast of the city of Paradise, California, and survivors of that terrible fire that killed 85 people carefully watched the fire burn.
A growing wildfire south of Lake Tahoe skipped a freeway, leading to further evacuation orders, the closure of the Pacific Crest Trail, and the cancellation of an extreme bike tour through the Sierra Nevada.
The Tamarack fire, lit by lightning on July 4th, had charred about 74 square kilometers of dry bushes and wood by Sunday evening. The fire threatened Markleeville, a small town near the California-Nevada border. It has destroyed at least two buildings, the authorities said.
A notice posted on Death Ride’s 165-kilometer website on Saturday said several communities in the area had been evacuated and ordered all cyclists to evacuate the area. The fire left thousands of cyclists and onlookers stranded in the small town and ran to get out.
Kelli Pennington and her family camped near town on Friday so her husband could join his ninth ride when they were told to leave. They had observed the smoke development during the day, but were surprised by the rapid spread of the fire.
“It went so quickly,” said Pennington. “We left our tents, hammocks and some groceries, but we got most of our things, pushed our two children into the car and left.”
As of Sunday evening, around 800 firefighters had been deployed to fight the flames, “focusing on protecting life and property by point protection of structures and putting in containment lines where possible,” the US Forest Service said.
A fire in the mountains of northeast Oregon grew to more than 48 square kilometers by Sunday. The Elbow Creek fire, which began Thursday, has sparked evacuations in several small, remote communities around the Grande Ronde River about 50 kilometers southeast of Walla Walla, Washington. It was 10% included.
The area’s natural features act like a funnel for the wind, nourishing the flames and making them unpredictable, officials said.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there have been about 70 active major fires and multiple flame complexes in the United States that burned nearly 1,659 square miles (4,297 square kilometers) in the United States. The US Forest Service announced that at least 16 major fires had burned in the Pacific Northwest alone.
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