Caldor fire: crews battling California blaze face rising temperatures

Spiking temperatures and increasing winds on Sunday added to the challenges faced by firefighters battling blazes across northern Kalifornië, including the huge Caldor fire, which continued its march toward the Lake Tahoe resort region.

“It is going to be the hottest day so far since the fire began and unfortunately probably the driest,” said Isaac Lake, a spokesperson for efforts to stop the two-week-old blaze.

Flames churned through mountains just a few miles south-west of the Tahoe Basin, where thick smoke sent tourists packing at a time when summer vacations would usually be in full swing.

Triple-digit temperatures were possible and the heat was expected to last several days, Lake said. A weather watch for critical fire conditions was issued for Monday and Tuesday at higher elevations across the Northern Sierra. Crews working in rugged terrain scrambled to douse spot fires caused by erratic winds.

“It’s so dry out there that when embers blow out into the unburned fuel beds, the probability of ignition is 90%,” Lake said.

More than a dozen large fires are being fought by more than 15,200 firefighters across California. Flames have destroyed around 2,000 structures and forced thousands to evacuate while blanketing large swaths of the west in unhealthy smoke.

The California fires are among nearly 90 large blazes in the US. Many are in the west, burning trees and brush desiccated by drought. Climate change has made the region warmer and drier and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive, volgens wetenskaplikes.

The Caldor fire, which broke out on 14 Augustus, was 19% contained after burning nearly 245 sq miles (635 sq km), an area larger than Chicago. Meer as 600 structures have been destroyed and at least 18,000 were under threat.

The Caldor fire has proved so difficult to fight that fire managers pushed back the projected date for full containment from early this week to 8 September. But even that estimate was tenuous.

The Dixie fire, the second-largest in state history at 1,193 sq miles, was 48% contained in the Sierra-Cascades region about 65 miles north of the Caldor fire. Byna 700 homes are among almost 1,300 buildings destroyed in the fire since early July.

Containment increased to 22% on the 12-day-old French fire, which covered more than 38 sq miles in the southern Sierra Nevada. Crews protected forest homes on the west side of Lake Isabella, a popular recreation area north-east of Bakersfield.

In southern California, evacuations were ordered for remote communities when a wildfire broke out and spread quickly through the Cleveland National Forest on Saturday.

A firefighter received minor injuries and two structures were destroyed in the 2.3-sq-mile Chaparral fire burning along the border of San Diego and Riverside counties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Dit was 10% contained on Sunday.

The Department of Defense is sending 200 soldiers from Washington state and equipment including eight C-130 aircraft to help firefighters in northern California, US Army North said in a statement on Saturday.

The soldiers are expected to arrive in early September after training. The C-130s have been converted into air tankers that can dump thousands of gallons of water on the flames.

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