SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) – California could be on its way to one of its worst fire seasons ever as hotter, drier conditions in the north increase the chances of new fires or turn existing fires into dangerous lives, officials said.
Crews on Tuesday cut miles of new containment lines around the Caldor fire, which was 50% contained after it burned over the ridge of the mountain range and threatened South Lake Tahoe.
What you need to know
- California could be heading towards one of the worst fire seasons ever as hotter, drier conditions increase the chances of new fires or turn existing fires into dangerous life
- Crews on Tuesday cut miles of the new containment line around the Caldor fire, which was 50% contained in the aftermath of the threat to South Lake Tahoe
- Evacuation orders for 22,000 residents were lifted on Sunday and further orders were reduced to warnings on Tuesday
- More than 15,500 employees worked on 14 major active fires in the state and new or existing fires could flare up this week
Evacuation orders for 22,000 residents were lifted on Sunday and further orders were reduced to warnings on Tuesday. But elsewhere some existing major fires continued to increase.
New evacuations were ordered for some areas of Trinity and Siskiyou counties when the river complex spread with three forest fires. A flame propelled by high winds leaped over a stream, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
Since Monday, the fires had grown by more than 52 square kilometers. It was 19% included.
More than 15,500 employees worked on 14 active major forest fires in the state and new or existing fires could flare up this week if the weather turns dangerous, said Tony Scardina, US Forest Service’s assistant regional ranger for California.
California’s energy network operator called on Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. nationwide to voluntarily save electricity, as a higher demand for air conditioning was to be expected due to the high temperatures.
Temperatures in the Sierra foothills could reach over 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Meanwhile, the entire state is showing the potential for extreme fire hazard in the next three months, said Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter.
“We are in the middle of the high season for forest fires,” he said. “And everyone must remain vigilant.”
About 3,125 square miles (8,094 square kilometers) of land have been burned so far this year, similar to the 2020 record fire season, Porter said.
“We are at the level where we were last year. It’s sobering, and that’s the new reality, ”he said.
California has seen larger and more deadly forest fires in recent years as climate change has made the western United States much warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists have said the weather will continue to be more extreme and forest fires will be more frequent, more destructive and more unpredictable.
The good news was near the Nevada state line, where the Caldor fire practically stopped a few miles outside of South Lake Tahoe. While the fire, which began on August 14, burned nearly 800 homes and gutted the mountain hamlet of Grizzly Flats, it did not burn any homes on its eastern edge.
The crews had largely been able to keep the flames away from inhabited areas. Some stretches of the perimeter were worrying, but most of the fire was clearing the job, miles of fire hoses pulled out of the forest and dangerously weakened trees cut down.
However, trees and other vegetation in the area remain scorch-dry and southwest winds are expected to pick up, which could lead to greater fire growth, authorities said.
North of the Caldor Fire was the Dixie Fire, the second largest in the state’s history, which has also burned through rural, forested communities.
The west side of the fire showed increased activity Tuesday, but crews “continue to be aggressive with airplanes, a 10-blade bulldozer,” and fire retardant sprayers protecting buildings around the edge of the fire, Cal Fire reported.
However, for the first time in days, there was little fire growth in the eastern zone, where firefighters had built about 25 miles of containment line in the past two weeks, Cal Fire said.
The fire, which began in mid-July, was 59% encircled after burning more than 3,626 square kilometers and burning nearly 700 homes in five counties. It could become the largest forest fire in the state’s history, firefighters said.