Firefighters working in scorching heat struggled to contain the largest wildfire in California this year, while state power operators urged people to conserve energy after a large wildfire in neighboring Oregon disrupted the flow of fire. electricity from three main transmission lines.
A large swath of the west baked over the weekend to high temperatures that were expected to continue into the start of the workweek. The California Independent System Operator that manages the state’s power grid issued a five-hour “flex alert” beginning at 4 pm Monday, asking consumers to “conserve as much electricity as possible” to avoid outages.
California and other parts of the West are sinking deeper into drought and that has raised fire danger through the roof in many areas. In Arizona, a small plane crashed Saturday during a study of a wildfire in rural Mohave County, killing both crew members.
The Beech C-90 aircraft was assisting in reconnaissance on the Cedar Basin Fire caused by lightning, near the small community of Wikieup northwest of Phoenix.
Authorities on Sunday identified the victims as Air Tactical Group supervisor Jeff Piechura, 62, a retired Tucson-area fire chief working for the Coronado National Forest, and Matthew Miller, 48, a pilot. Falcon Executive Aviation contracted by the US Forest Service. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.
In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire exploded 580 square kilometers while cutting through heavy wood in the Fremont-Winema National Forest near the town of Sprague River in Klamath County. The fire disrupted service on three transmission lines supplying up to 5,500 megawatts of electricity to neighboring California.
California’s largest wildfire of the year was occurring near the Nevada border. The Beckwourth Complex Fire, a combination of two lightning fires burning north of Lake Tahoe, grew to 348 kilometers on a third Sunday. However, firefighters working in temperatures exceeding 38 degrees Celsius were able to gain some ground, doubling containment to 20%.
On Saturday night, flames jumped onto US 395, which was closed near the small town of Doyle in Lassen County, California. Lanes were reopened Sunday and authorities urged motorists to be careful and keep moving along the key north-south route where the flames were still active.
“Don’t stop to take pictures,” said Fire Operations Section Chief Jake Cagle. “You are going to hamper our operations if you stop and watch what is happening.”
Cagle said the structures had burned at Doyle, but he did not have an exact number. Bob Prary, who runs the Buck-Inn Bar in the city of about 600 people, said he saw at least six homes destroyed after Saturday’s blast. The fire was burning Sunday in and around Doyle, but he feared some remote ranch properties were still in danger.
“It seems the worst is over in the city, but on the mountainside the fire is still strong,” Prary said.
A wildfire in southeastern Washington grew to nearly 155 square kilometers as it blackened grass and wood as it moved into the Umatilla National Forest.
In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little declared a wildfire emergency Friday and mobilized the state National Guard to help fight the fires that started after thunderstorms struck the drought-stricken region.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism