California's Dixie Fire destroys homes as wildfires continue to rage across the West, US
The Dixie Fire continues to rage on in Northern California as fire crews work to contain the state's largest fire burning right now, the 14th largest fire in state history. The fire grew to 220 012 acres and is at 23 percent containment. There have been 39 structures destroyed along with 21 minor structures. Five structures have been damaged along with three minor structures. The Dixie Fire is one of many wildfires burning across the West Coast, where recent heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight.
The Dixie fire in northern California raged over the weekend as it converged with another wildfire, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The blaze has incinerated more than 220 000 acres and officials warned that smoke columns could spawn lightning storms capable of igniting more fires.
An evacuation shelter was established in the city of Susanville, California and five other areas were placed under evacuation warnings.
The large, destructive wildfires in the US West marked a heavier-than-normal start of the wildfire season and they've coincided with record-shattering heat that has baked much of the region in recent weeks and caused hundreds of deaths.
Nearly 90 large fires had scorched more than 1,4 million acres across 13 states as of Saturday, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre. Oregon's Bootleg Fire, the country's largest inferno, was nearly halfway surrounded Saturday as more than 2 200 fire fighters made progress corralling it, officials said.
There has been so much smoke from the fires in the West that it is helping fire fighters gain ground on the Bootleg Fire by blocking sunlight, officials said Saturday. "It's called 'smoke shading,' and it's basically put a lid on the lower atmosphere for now, blocking sunlight and creating cooler, more stable surface conditions," said Eric Schoening, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City. The phenomenon, however, is unpredictable and the area was still under red-flag warnings over the weekend.
While the growth of the fire finally slowed, thousands of homes in southern Oregon remained threatened. Extreme fire behaviour and an unstable atmosphere created by the Bootleg Fire formed a tornado in the area last weekend. "With the critically dry weather and fuels we are experiencing, firefighters are having to constantly re-evaluate their control lines and look for contingency options," Jim Hanson, a fire behaviour analyst, said Saturday in a news release from the Oregon Forestry Department.
Also Saturday, fire crews from California and Utah headed to Montana, Governor Greg Gianforte announced, after five fire fighters remained hospitalized after a thunderstorm blew a lightning-caused Montana wildfire back onto them. The extent of their injuries was still unknown.
Another high-priority wildfire, the Alder Creek Fire in southwest Montana, had charred over 6 800 acres and threatened hundreds of homes. It was only 10 percent contained Saturday night.
Fire fighters also battled blazes Saturday in north-central Washington, where hundreds of homes are under threat and air quality conditions continue to deteriorate.
While a chance of scattered thunderstorms over the weekend could offer some respite across California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and other Western states, forecasters warned that dry storms that produce little rain but a lot of lightning can spark new blazes.
The smoke from the fierce fires has been carried all the way across the continental US to the East Coast, where air quality alerts were issued.
Sources: NBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters