Monday, November 29

Caldor Fire: California Fire Fighting Teams Face Rising Temperatures | Forest fires


High temperatures and rising winds on Sunday added to the challenges facing firefighters fighting the fires in Northern California, including the massive Caldor fire, which continued its march into the Lake Tahoe resort region.

“It’s going to be the hottest day so far since the fire started and sadly probably the driest,” said Isaac Lake, a spokesman for efforts to stop the two-week blaze.

Flames churned through the mountains just a few miles southwest of the Tahoe Basin, where thick smoke sent tourists packing at a time when summer vacations were generally in full swing.

Triple-digit temperatures were possible and the heat was expected to last for several days, Lake said. A weather alert for critical fire conditions was issued for Monday and Tuesday at higher elevations in the Sierra Norte. Crews working on rough terrain scrambled to put out fires caused by erratic winds.

“It’s so dry out there that when embers spill onto beds of unburned fuel, the chance of ignition is 90%,” Lake said.

More than a dozen major fires are being fought by more than 15,200 firefighters throughout California. The flames have destroyed around 2,000 structures and forced thousands of people to evacuate while covering large swaths of the west in unsanitary smoke.

The California fires are among the nearly 90 major fires in the US Many are in the west, burning trees and brush dried out by drought. Climate change has made the region warmer and drier and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive, according to scientists.

The Caldor fire, which broke out on August 14, was 19% contained after burning nearly 245 square miles (635 km2), an area larger than Chicago. More than 600 structures have been destroyed and at least 18,000 are threatened.

The Caldor fire has proven so difficult to fight that fire managers pushed back the projected date for full containment from earlier this week to Sept. 8. But even that estimate was tenuous.

The Dixie fire, the second largest in state history at 1,193 square miles, was 48% contained in the Sierra-Cascades region about 65 miles north of the Caldor fire. About 700 houses are among the nearly 1,300 buildings destroyed by the fire since early July.

Containment increased to 22% in the 12-day-old French fire, which covered more than 38 square miles in the southern Sierra Nevada. Teams protected forest homes on the west side of Lake Isabella, a popular recreation area northeast of Bakersfield.

Caldor fire burns on both sides of US Highway 50, images show - video
Caldor fire burns on both sides of US Highway 50, images show – video

In Southern California, evacuations were ordered for remote communities when a wildfire broke out and spread rapidly through the Cleveland National Forest on Saturday.

A firefighter received minor injuries and two structures were destroyed in the 2.3-square-mile Chaparral fire burning along the San Diego and Riverside counties border, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was 10% contained on Sunday.

The Department of Defense will send 200 Washington state troops and equipment, including eight C-130 jets, to assist firefighters in Northern California, the US Army Northern said in a statement Saturday.

The soldiers are expected to arrive in early September after training. C-130s have become tanker planes that can dump thousands of gallons of water on flames.


www.theguardian.com

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