California fires stretch crews and evacuees stranded

As another day of wildland firefighting began in California on Friday, fire crews saw some glimmers of hope. Smoke from Caldor’s fire r...

As another day of wildland firefighting began in California on Friday, fire crews saw some glimmers of hope. Smoke from Caldor’s fire rages southwest of Lake Tahoe had helped to smother the spread of flames, for example, and the pace of evacuations was slowing.

But the state’s battle against summer wildfires is far from over.

As of Friday night, many of the biggest fires in California were still less than 50% under control. The fire crews were precariously stretched out. The air quality around Sacramento and San Francisco, fouled with smoke from wildfires, is expected to remain mediocre. And officials have warned that it could be days or weeks before those who fled the Caldor fire are allowed to return home.

This fire, which started over the weekend, has spread to more than 75,000 acres, according to Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency. The blaze went completely uncontrolled even though more than 650 people were fighting it. The Caldor fire destroyed more than 150 structures and threatens an estimated 7,000 more.

Over 20,000 people in El Dorado County have been ordered to leave or prepare to leave their homes, according to the governor’s office. Cal Fire official Dusty Martin said during a community meeting Thursday that he expected the mandatory evacuation orders for the Caldor fire “to last for a little while – at least a week, maybe more than two weeks.”

The nearby Dixie Fire, which burned about 700,000 acres, an area about nine-tenths the size of Rhode Island, also remains a serious threat, even after burning for more than a month. Friday night was just over a third contained and still threatened more than 16,000 structures. Three firefighters were injured while working on the blaze, and a local television station reported that 13 of them had tested positive for Covid-19.

In southern California, a new fire that broke out in Kern County, north of Los Angeles on Wednesday, quickly caught on. consumed over 3,000 acres and prompted new evacuation orders. This fire, known as the French fire, was only 5% contained on Friday afternoon.

The fires in California are among dozens that have affected emergency agencies across the western United States this month. Although some fire teams have made significant progress in recent weeks, the prevailing weather conditions in many areas – low humidity, dry soil and high winds – are a recipe for further flames and destruction.

Fire potential in most of the mountains and foothills of California is expected to be higher than normal through September, and through October in areas prone to offshore winds, the National Interagency Fire Center said last week.

The United States Forest Service announced on Thursday it would close nine national forests in California to the public for two weeks, starting next week, to help protect residents and fire teams working in the area. Part of the hinterland around Lake Tahoe was also closed Thursday for at least a month.

The closure earlier this week of the Eldorado National Forest, where the Caldor fire burned, “was not taken very lightly,” said Jeff Marsolais, the region’s forestry supervisor.

“It was about trying to keep you away from this spreading fire,” he told the community meeting Thursday night. “It’s about evacuations, stretched resources, and our inability to keep pace with the blaze, which at the time spread from 40,000 to 45,000 acres in a single burn period.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: California fires stretch crews and evacuees stranded
California fires stretch crews and evacuees stranded
Newsrust - US Top News
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