Multiple homes were destroyed by flames rushing across rocky terrain in Northern California on Saturday, as the state's largest wildfire grew larger and a slew of other fires raged across the West.
When the Dixie fire, which started on July 14, tore through the little village of Indian Falls after nightfall, it had already destroyed over a dozen houses and other structures.
Although fire officials reported the inferno had burnt more than 181,000 acres (73,200 hectares) in Plumas and Butte counties and was 20% contained, an updated damage estimate was not immediately available.
According to fire officials, the fire was blazing in a rural location with limited access, limiting firefighters' operations as it moved eastward. Several tiny settlements including the west shore of Lake Almanor, a favorite vacation getaway, have been ordered to evacuate.
Meanwhile, the nation's largest wildfire, the Bootleg fire in southern Oregon, was nearly half-encircled Saturday as more than 2,200 firefighters battled the heat and wind to contain it, according to fire officials. Authorities said the fire's spread had halted, but thousands of homes on its eastern side remained in danger.
In a news release from the Oregon Department of Forestry, fire behavior analyst Jim Hanson noted, "This fire is resistant to stopping at dozer lines." “Firefighters are constantly reevaluating their control lines and looking for contingency options due to the critically dry weather and fuels we are experiencing.”
Governor Gavin Newsom of California has declared a state of emergency for four northern counties due to wildfires that are presenting "extreme peril to the safety of persons and property," according to the governor. The decree paved the path for additional state backing.
Such situations are frequently created by a mix of unique random, short-term, and natural weather patterns, which are exacerbated by long-term, human-induced climate change. In the last 30 years, global warming has made the West increasingly warmer and drier.
Governor Greg Gianforte stated on Saturday that fire firefighters from California and Utah would be heading to Montana. Five firefighters were hurt Thursday while working on the Devil's Creek fire in difficult, steep terrain in Jordan, in the state's northeast corner, when swirling winds pushed flames back on them.
They were still in the hospital on Friday. Mark Jacobsen, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, refused to say how serious their injuries were, and attempts to discover more about their health on Saturday were futile. Three of the firefighters are from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in North Dakota, while the other two are from the US Forest Service in New Mexico.
The Alder Creek fire in southwest Montana, which had burned over 6,800 acres (2,750 hectares) and was 10% contained Saturday night, was another high-priority blaze. It was posing a threat to approximately 240 homes.
In other parts of California, the Tamarack fire south of Lake Tahoe raged on, destroying wood and chaparral and posing a threat to settlements on both sides of the California-Nevada state line. The fire in Alpine County, which was started by lightning on July 4, has damaged at least ten structures.
Heavy smoke from that fire, as well as the Dixie fire, reduced visibility and may have forced the grounding of planes providing assistance to firefighters. The air quality south of Lake Tahoe and over the Nevada state line has deteriorated to dangerous levels.
Firefighters in Okanogan County, Washington, battled two blazes that endangered hundreds of houses and created poor air quality once again on Saturday. A small fire near the Silverwood Theme Park in northern Idaho, east of Spokane, Washington, forced evacuations Friday evening at the park and in the surrounding area. On Saturday, the theme park reopened with the fire just half-extinguished.
Although scorching temperatures and afternoon winds continued to pose a concern of spreading fires, weekend predictions in California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and other states called for a chance of scattered thunderstorms. Forecasters warned some of the storms could be dry thunderstorms with little rain but a lot of lightning, which could start new fires.
Over 85 significant wildfires were blazing across the country, most of them were in Western states, consuming over 1.4 million acres (2,135 square miles, or more than 553,000 hectares).