'Hard days ahead': Red flag warnings prompt more wildfire fears; Dixie Fire jumps perimeter lines

·3 min read

Firefighters battling dozens of blazes across the West braced for more hot, dry weather as dangerous conditions threatened to spark new wildfires in multiple states.

The Dixie Fire blazed through Greenville, California, leaving behind only a few structures. The fire primarily burned through most of the downtown area and some surrounding homes in the small mountain community. Photos of the area showed an orange tinge in the sky and small patches of fire, remnants of destruction in the town.

“If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!!” the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook Wednesday.

Firefighters had been attempting to protect the town from the fire as it crept its way across Plumas and Butte counties by clearing debris from roads and marking hazards.

The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for parts of California, Nevada and Oregon until Thursday evening, expecting gusty winds and low humidity that could cause the dry vegetation to burn rapidly.

Gusts could top 40 mph in areas where humidity is in the single digits, which can cause fires "to rapidly grow in size and intensity before first responders can contain them," the weather service in Reno, Nevada, said.

There are 27 active large wildfires in those three states, and across 14 states, 96 large wildfires have burned more than 2,900 square miles, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

In Northern California, the Dixie Fire remains the largest blaze in the state as conditionsstoke the flames. Firefighters saw activity on the east and west sides of the 395-square-mile blaze Wednesday.

Additional evacuation orders came in Tuesday, affecting about 15,000 people as the fire jumped perimeter lines.

“I think we definitely have a few hard days ahead of us," said Shannon Prather with the U.S. Forest Service.

Mike Wink, a state fire operations section chief, said the fire created a pyrocumulus cloud, or "fire cloud," on Tuesday.

Trees burn during the Dixie Fire near Greenville, Calif., on Aug. 3.
Trees burn during the Dixie Fire near Greenville, Calif., on Aug. 3.

The fire has been burning since July 13, destroying 67 structures and damaging nine others, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Nearly 5,000 firefighters are working on the blaze, which was 35% contained as of Wednesday.

The McFarland Fire, about 150 miles west, has doubled in size every day since a lightning strike ignited the blaze less than a week ago. The fire is only 5% contained and has burned almost 25 square miles.

Scientists said climate change caused conditions that led to warmer, drier weather across the West, making wildfires burn larger areas, more intensely and more frequently.

In Oregon, the state's third-largest fire in history, the Bootleg Fire, has burned more than 640 square miles. Although conditions remain dry, firefighters made progress to improve fire lines, the Forest Service said, and the blaze was 84% contained. The Bootleg Fire remained the nation's largest fire as of Wednesday.

As a result, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning in Pendleton, Oregon, on Wednesday. The warning will be in effect until 11 p.m. Thursday. The issue goes into effect as gusty thunderstorm winds could reach 40 to 50 mph and increase fire spread, according to the weather service.

In Nevada and California, the Tamarack fire that stretched over 68,000 acres is now 82% contained as of Wednesday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. People may see more smoke around the perimeter of the fire, the center said.

The fire started from a lightning strike on July 4 and remained relatively small until high winds in mid-July caused the fire to spread through Alpine County in Nevada. Douglas County reported 13 structures were damaged or lost due to the Tamarack fire, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

In Hawaii, the Big Island's largest-ever wildfire was under better control after slower winds and some rain Tuesday.

“We have the fire surrounded,” Troy Gibson, the fire's incident commander, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The fire had burned more 62 square miles.

Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fire update: Dixie Fire jumps line; red flag warnings in California

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting