A month-old forest fire burns through forest areas in Northern California threatened a small logging town as fires in western states strained resources and threatened thousands of homes.
Crews were pushing back brushes and using bulldozers to build lines to prevent the Dixie Fire from reaching Westwood east of Lake Almanor, not far from where the lightning-caused fire destroyed much of the town of Greenville last week. .
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The entire city of about 1,700 people was placed under evacuation orders on Aug. 5 as the fire approached.
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In the northwest, the Monument Fire — one of at least three major fires sparked by lightning last month — continued to grow after destroying a dozen homes and threatening about 2,500 homes in a sparsely populated region. US Forest Service officials said on Friday that flying embers set fires up to a mile before the main blaze in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
They were one of more than 100 major wildfires burning in a dozen Western states that have been scorched by drought and hot, bone-dry weather that has turned forests, scrub, meadows and pastures into tinder.
The Forest Service said on Friday it is operating in crisis mode, deploying firefighters fully and using its support system to the maximum.
The roughly 21,000 federal firefighters working on the ground are more than double the number sent to control wildfires a year ago, and the agency faces “critical resource constraints,” said Anthony Scardina, a deputy forest ranger for the United States. Pacific Southwest Region.
More than 6,000 firefighters alone fought the Dixie Fire, which has destroyed more than 1,000 homes, businesses and other buildings, and is the largest wildfire in the US. The flames have destroyed more than 800 square miles.
There was also a danger of new fires due to unstable weather conditions, including a chance of thunderstorms that could bring lightning to Northern California, Oregon and Nevada, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
“Mother Nature just keeps throwing obstacles in our way,” said Edwin Zuniga, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which works with the Forest Service to control the Dixie Fire.
In southeastern Montana, firefighters and residents scrambled to save hundreds of homes as flames spread across the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.
The fire was more than 50% under control. But the southern rim was still burning near the tribe’s headquarters, Lame Deer, where a mandatory evacuation remained in place, and a second fire threatened from the opposite direction.
The fires had already burned or threatened grasslands on which many residents with livestock and horses depend for their livelihoods, Montana officials said.
Smoke from the fires became so thick Friday that the health clinic in Lame Deer was closed after air filters failed to keep up with pollution, said Angel Becker, spokesman for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.
Smoke also pushed air pollution to unhealthy or very unhealthy levels in parts of Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Northern California, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Hot, dry weather with strong afternoon winds also sparked several fires in Washington state, and similar weather was expected for the weekend, fire officials said.
In southeastern Oregon, two new wildfires spread from lightning strikes near the California border on Thursday and quickly spread through trees and undergrowth.
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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency for one of the fires to mobilize crews and other resources to the area of ranches, rural subdivisions and RV parks about 22 miles from the small town of Lakeview.
Triple-digit temperatures and bone-dry conditions in Oregon, which endures a third day of extreme heat, are expected to increase fire risk over the weekend.
Climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past 30 years, and scientists say it will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive.
Dozens of fires are also burning in western Canada and Europe, including Greece, where a massive wildfire has destroyed forests and set houses on fire.