Nearly 60 wildfires were burning on Tuesday in 10 parched western US states, the largest of which was Oregon, consuming an area nearly twice the size of Portland.
The fires burned down homes and forced thousands to evacuate from Alaska to Wyoming, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Arizona, Idaho and Montana accounted for more than half of large active fires.
The fires broke out as the west suffered the second wave of dangerously high temperatures in just a few weeks. A major drought, exacerbated by the climate crisis, contributes to conditions that make fires even more dangerous, scientists say.
The National Weather Service said the heat wave appeared to have peaked in many areas and excessive heat warnings were due to expire by Tuesday. However, they continued Tuesday night in some California deserts, and many areas are still expected to peak in the ’80s and’ 90s.
In northern California, a combined pair of lightning-ignited flames dubbed the Beckwourth complex were surrounded by less than 25% after days of fighting the blazes fueled by winds, hot weather and low humidity that sapped the humidity of the vegetation. Evacuation orders were in place for more than 3,000 residents of remote northern areas and neighboring Nevada.
Burned houses were reported, but the damage was still being assessed. The fire had consumed 140 square miles (362 km2) of land, including in the Plumas National Forest.
A fire that broke out on Sunday in the Sierra Nevada south of Yosemite National Park exploded over 36 square kilometers and was only 10% contained.
The largest fire in the United States crossed the California border into southwestern Oregon. The Bootleg fire – which doubled and doubled again over the weekend – threatened some 2,000 homes, state fire officials said. He had burned at least seven houses and over 40 other buildings.