Wildfires in the western US are the size of a bubble in hot and windy conditions

Wildfires in California and Montana flared up overnight in hot and windy conditions and are rapidly invading residential areas, forcing the evacuation of more than 100 homes on Saturday, while fires in Idaho is spreading.

In California’s Klamath National Forest, the fast-spreading McKinney fire, which began Friday, has burned from just over a square mile (1 square kilometer) to scorching 62 square miles (160 square kilometers) on Saturday in a single area. countryside. area near the Oregon state line, according to fire officials.

The fire destroyed at least a dozen homes and wildlife was seen fleeing the area to avoid the blaze.

A fire truck drives along California’s Highway 96 as the McKinney Fire burns in Klamath National Forest (Noah Berger/AP) (AP)

“It continues to grow with erratic winds and thunderstorms in the area and we’re in triple digits,” said Klamath National Forest spokeswoman Caroline Quintanilla.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Saturday as the fires intensified. This declaration allows him more flexibility in making decisions about recovery efforts and emergency response and access to federal aid.

It also authorizes “fire resources from other states to assist California’s crews in fighting the fires,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Meanwhile, in Montana, the Elmo fire has nearly tripled to more than 11 square miles (about 28 square kilometers) within a few miles of the town of Elmo.

About 200 miles (320 km) south, residents of Idaho remained under evacuation orders as the Moose Fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest burned more than 67.5 square miles (174.8 square kilometers) of timber near the town. town of Salmon. It was contained 17%.

Tom Stokesberry, a regional spokesman for the US Forest Service, said a significant buildup of vegetation fueled the McKinney fires.

“It’s a very dangerous fire – the geography there is steep and rough, and this particular area hasn’t burned in a while,” he said.

A small fire was also burning nearby, outside the town of Seiad, he said.

Flames from the McKinney Fire burn through trees along California Highway 96 in the Klamath National Forest (Noah Berger/AP) (AP)

With thunderstorms forecast for the next few days, he added, resources from across California are being brought in to help fight the area’s fires.

McKinney’s explosive growth forced teams to shift from trying to control the perimeter of the blaze to trying to protect homes and critical infrastructure such as water tanks and power lines, and provide first aid. canopy in Siskiyou County, California’s northernmost tip.

Deputies and law enforcement officers knocked door-to-door in Yreka County and Fort Jones to urge residents to get out and safely evacuate their livestock to trailers. Automated calls are also sent to landline lines as there are areas where cell phone service is not available.

More than 100 homes have been ordered to evacuate and authorities have warned residents to be on high alert. Smoke from the fire blocked many sections of Highway 96.

The Pacific Coast Trail Association urges hikers to head to the nearest town, while the U.S. Forest Service has closed a 110-mile (177 km) stretch of trail from Etna Summit to Etna. Mount Ashland Campground in southern Oregon.

A horse grazes as the McKinney Fire burns in Klamath National Forest, California (Noah Berger/AP) (AP)

Oregon Congressman Dacia Grayber, a firefighter, was camping with her husband, who is also on the fire service, near the California line when gusts of wind woke them up shortly after midnight.

The sky was glowing with lightning in the clouds, while ash was blowing at them, even though they were in Oregon, about 10 miles (16km) away. The intense heat from the fires created a giant cloud of pyrocumulonimbus, which could create its own weather system that includes wind and thunderstorms, Ms. Grayber said.

“These are some of the worst winds I’ve been in and we’re used to big fires,” she said. “I thought it was going to rip the tent on top of our truck. We got out of there. “

On their way out, they encounter Pacific Coast Trail hikers fleeing to safety.

“The scary part for us was the wind velocity,” she said. “It goes from a fairly cool, light night to hot, dry stormy winds. Usually that happens with fires during the day but not at night. I hope for everyone’s sake this will go down but it looks like it will get worse. “

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, based in Idaho, in western Montana, the Elmo fire forced the evacuation of homes and livestock as it raced through grass and wood. The agency estimates it will take nearly a month to contain the blaze.

According to the Montana Department of Transportation, the smoke extinguished part of Highway 28 between Hot Springs and Elmo because of the thick smoke.

Crews from a number of different agencies battled the blaze on Saturday, including the Salish and Kootenai Southern Tribes Fire Brigade. Six helicopters are descending on the fire, powered by 22 engines on the ground.

Burnt vehicles and homes next to Oaks Mobile Park in the Klamath River community (Noah Berger/AP) (AP)

In Idaho, more than 930 wilderness firefighters and support personnel battled the Moose fires Saturday and protected homes, energy infrastructure and the Highway 93 corridor, a route North-South main.

The red flag warning indicates that the weather could make things worse with a “dry thunderstorm” forecast with lightning, wind and no rain.

In Hawaii, fire crews and helicopters battled the blaze over Maui near Paia Bay on Saturday night.

The Maui County Emergency Management Authority said roads were closed and advised residents and visitors to avoid the area. It is unclear how many acres were burned. The red flag warning will go into effect on Sunday.

Meanwhile, crews have made significant progress in battling another major California fire that forced thousands of people to evacuate near Yosemite National Park earlier this month. According to an update, the Cal Fire was 52% contained as of Saturday.

As fires ravage the West, the US House of Representatives on Friday passed sweeping legislation aimed at helping communities in the region cope with increasingly severe wildfires and droughts – caused by climate change. climate change – causing billions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses in recent years.

The legislative measure approved by federal politicians combines 49 separate Measures and will increase firefighters’ salaries and benefits, resilience enhancements, and mitigation projects for impacted communities. affected by climate change, protect watersheds and make it easier for wildfire victims to receive federal assistance.

The bill will now move to the Senate, where California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has sponsored a similar measure.

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https://www.newschainonline.com/news/wildfires-in-western-us-balloon-in-size-amid-hot-and-windy-conditions-283810 Wildfires in the western US are the size of a bubble in hot and windy conditions

Mike Fahey

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