Flames sweeping through rugged terrain in northern California destroyed several homes on Saturday as the state’s largest wildfire escalated and numerous other fires gripped the western United States.
The Dixie fire, which began on July 14, had already razed more than a dozen homes and other structures when it ravaged the small community of Indian Falls after dark.
An updated damage estimate was not immediately available, although firefighters said the blaze had charred more than 181,000 acres in Plumas and Butte counties and was 20% contained.
The blaze was burning in a remote area with limited access, hampering the efforts of firefighters as it charged east, firefighters said. This prompted evacuation orders in several small communities and along the western shore of Lake Almanor, a popular getaway in the area.
The nation’s largest wildfire, the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, was nearly half-surrounded as more than 2,200 crew members worked to contain it in the heat and wind, said firefighters. Growth of the sprawling blaze had slowed, but thousands of homes remained at risk on the east side, authorities said.
“This fire is resisting stopping on the bulldozer lines,” said Jim Hanson, fire behavior analyst, in a press release from the Oregon Department of Forestry. “With the extremely dry weather and the fuels we are experiencing, firefighters must constantly re-evaluate their control lines and look for emergency options. “
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for four northern counties due to forest fires which he said were causing “conditions of extreme danger to the safety of people and property”. The proclamation paved the way for greater state support.
Such conditions are often due to a combination of unusual, random, short-term and natural weather conditions, accentuated by long-term human-caused climate change. Global warming has made the west much hotter and drier over the past 30 years.
Fire crews from California and Utah traveled to Montana on Saturday, Governor Greg Gianforte said. Five firefighters were injured Thursday when swirling winds blew flames back at them as they worked on the Devil’s Creek blaze that burned on rugged, rugged terrain near the rural town of Jordan in northeastern Jordan. the state. Attempts to find out their conditions have failed.
Another high priority fire, the Alder Creek Fire in southwestern Montana, had charred more than 6,800 acres and was 10% contained. It threatened nearly 240 homes.
Elsewhere in California, the Tamarack fire south of Lake Tahoe continued to burn timber and chaparral and threatened communities on both sides of the California-Nevada border. The fire, started by lightning on July 4, destroyed at least 10 buildings.
Heavy smoke from this blaze and the Dixie blaze reduced visibility and may occasionally ground aircraft providing support to fire crews. The air quality south of Lake Tahoe and across the state border into Nevada has deteriorated to very unhealthy levels.
In north-central Washington, firefighters battled two fires in Okanogan County that threatened hundreds of homes and again caused dangerous air quality conditions. And in northern Idaho, east of Spokane, Wash., A small fire near the Silverwood theme park caused evacuations on Friday night in and around the park. The theme park was reopened on Saturday with the fire half contained.
While warm weather with afternoon winds posed a continued threat of spreading the fires, forecasts for the weekend also predicted a risk of scattered thunderstorms in California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and in other states. However, forecasters said some could be dry thunderstorms that produce little rain but lots of lightning, which can start new fires.
More than 85 large forest fires were burning across the country, most in western states, and they had burned over 1.4 million acres.