(CNN) — Hundreds of California residents are under evacuation orders after they emerged new fires this Wednesday, at a time when another heat wave is expected to make the battle against the flames even more difficult.
California is battling the massive Dixie Fire, the state’s largest fire and the 14th most destructive on record, which has grown to more than 302,300 hectares and it is 45% contained. The fire threatens more than 11,800 structures and has prompted evacuation orders and warnings in Plumas, Lassen, Butte, Tehama and Shasta counties.
“The fires burning in Northern California are showing extreme fire growth based on critical fuel conditions,” said Cal Fire in an incident update Thursday. “Under these dry conditions, the wildfires are burning rapidly with extreme severity and have traveled up to 12 kilometers in a single day. Fuel conditions are much worse than in previous years and, together with the wind, are causing a increased fire spread. Firefighters are experiencing conditions never seen before, such as increased spread rates, spotting and active night burning. “
Another wildfire burning in Northern California’s Trinity National Forest is the Monument Fire, which has burned 63,651 hectares and is 20% contained.
Meanwhile, the Caldor fire has burned 55,297 hectares since it started on August 14 and was 12% contained as of Thursday morning, according to Cal Fire. The fire, which is burning in El Dorado and Amador counties, is the state’s top priority, according to authorities.
“We received the first opportunity for additional resources to become available,” Cal Fire Incident Commander Dusty Martin said in a briefing Wednesday night. “We have been very fortunate in the last two days, in which we have seen a large influx of resources towards the Caldor fire and, as our operations spoke, we are beginning to see the fruits of those efforts.”
“We are starting to gain ground in this fire and that is making a difference,” he added.
City declares itself in emergency
The city of South Lake Tahoe declared a state of emergency Thursday as accelerating winds brought the Caldor fire closer to the popular tourist destination.
“With possible red flag conditions in the coming days, the Caldor fire could rapidly spread into more populated communities and significantly larger areas,” the Governor’s Office for Emergency Services said in a statement, adding that even communities as far as South Lake Tahoe may have to evacuate.
Although the city’s emergency declaration does not include evacuation orders, it does leverage state and federal resources to direct funds for immediate disaster relief and waive certain rules for greater flexibility. said the city government in a press release posted on Facebook.
“At this time, we are prepared in case an evacuation is necessary, but the firefighters on the front lines are doing an incredible job securing the perimeter of the fire and our hope is that they will be able to prevent the fire from going further into Tahoe. “City spokeswoman Lindsey Baker told CNN.
The city’s emergency declaration comes after evacuation orders have been issued at Echo Summit and warnings have been extended for the first time to parts of Tahoe, including Christmas Valley, which is just south of the city of South Lake. Tahoe.
The last time South Lake Tahoe was under mandatory evacuation orders was in 2007, when parts of the region were ordered to leave due to the Angora fire, Baker said. More than 22,000 people live in the city.
Crews fought 34 new fires on Wednesday
Firefighters battled 34 new fires in the state on Wednesday, Cal Fire said, attributing two new large fires to drought conditions.
As of Thursday morning, 33,323 people in California were under evacuation orders due to wildfires, according to the Office of Emergency Services.
The Airola fire broke out in Calaveras County and prompted authorities to issue warnings and evacuation orders, according to the county sheriff’s office. The fire has burned some 283 hectares and is 10% contained.
In San Bernardino County, the South Fire has burned 283 acres and destroyed 18 structures, including numerous homes, after it began Wednesday and was 0% contained, Cal Fire said Thursday. The fire is burning near Lytle Creek, a small community in the San Gabriel Mountains.
“We have lived here for more than 30 years and this is the fastest I have seen a fire progress,” a resident told CNN affiliate KABC.
“We got home and there was no time to evacuate, or to get anything, so what we are wearing is the only thing we have, that’s all.”
“We know that several of our neighbors’ houses (have) burned down, we are still not sure what the state of our house is,” added the resident.
Parts of the county were placed under evacuation orders and warnings, while other residents were advised to shelter in place, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday in a Facebook post. Evacuation orders are in effect for 1,000 people, authorities said.
Laura Mills told CNN affiliate KCBS, who lives in the area where the fire is currently burning.
“I came home and grabbed the dogs,” he told the news outlet. “Hopefully our house will survive.”
Meanwhile, the Bennett fire started Wednesday in Nevada County and prompted authorities to issue evacuations in some areas, as well as ordering others to shelter in place, the county’s emergency services office said. in a tweet. The 24-hectare fire was 70% contained, said Cal Fire, and some of those evacuation orders were raised.
A devastating wildfire season
So far this year, firefighters have battled 6,773 new wildfires across the state that have burned more than 647,497 hectares, according to Cal Fire.
In the same period last year, teams fought 7,389 fires.
According to Cal Fire, Northern California has experienced heavy fire activity thus far and “will likely experience an extended fire season.”
The Office of Emergency Services says nearly 700 people are seeking shelter at 16 facilities across the state.
“Don’t wait, evacuate!” it is your reminder to residents to heed emergency notifications.
Temperatures are expected to be 2.8 ° C to 5.6 ° C above normal over the weekend in California, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said.
And while this is not uncommon for the region during this time of year, “any kind of rise in temperature is not good for firefighters or any firefighters with their exposure to intense temperatures as it is,” Guy said. He noted that warmer weather is not expected to worsen current fire conditions.
Study: Wildfire Smoke Threatens Possible Covid-19 Outbreak
The 88 major wildfires currently burning in the United States have burned 1,011,714 hectares, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, And its smoke has put thousands of people on alert for poor air quality.
Thick smoke from the wildfires blanketed Lake Tahoe resort communities this week, as the Caldor Fire, burning east of Sacramento, California, continued to grow.
The air quality index, which measures the degree of unhealthiness of the air, rose to 694 in Tahoe City on Monday, according to AirNow.gov. In Reno on Tuesday, the AQI reached 453. An AQI between 300 and 500 is considered “a health warning of emergency conditions“In which even healthy people are at risk for respiratory diseases. An AQI below 50 indicates that the air is healthy and poses little or no risk, even for people with respiratory diseases.
The index has been around or above 300 in the Tahoe and Reno areas every day since Friday.
Washoe County, which includes Reno, first issued a Monday Stage 3 air quality emergency notice, warning residents to stay indoors with windows and doors closed.
Compounding the problem, researchers have recently discovered that wildfire smoke has a significant impact on the severity of fire. coronavirus cases. A study published this month in the academic journal Science Advances found that the increase in fine particulate matter from wildfire smoke in 2020 led to an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in California, Oregon and Washington.
California wildfire increases in size 24 times in two days. Thousands of people were evacuated
“What is happening in Lake Tahoe and in Reno is very worrying,” Francesca Dominici, a researcher at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health and co-author of the study on wildfire smoke, told CNN, “because we know that exposure to a high level of fine particles can amplify the negative effect of the pandemic. “
Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have risen precipitously in the Reno area in recent weeks, according to Washoe County Health Data. Coronavirus cases in Washoe County were up 24% on Monday compared to the previous week, and hospitalizations were up more than 18%.
–Andy Rose, Cheri Mossburg and Alexandra Meeks contributed reporting.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism