by Nathan Howard, The Associated Press
BLY, Ore. – Low winds and better weather helped crews using bulldozers and helicopters battling the nation’s largest wildfire in southern Oregon, while northern California wildfires crossed into Nevada, causing blazes to burn to the west Due to withdrawal.
Oregon’s bootleg fire grew to 624 square miles (1,616 square kilometers) – more than half the size of Rhode Island. However, officials said higher humidity and better conditions on Wednesday and night allowed workers to improve the lines of the fire. The fire was also approaching an area burned by previous fires on its active southeastern edge, raising hopes that fuel shortages may reduce its spread and the forecast was for favorable firefighting weather again on Thursday.
“Over the past few days, firefighters and support personnel have made significant progress in controlling this fire,” incident commander Trainee Joe Pramer of Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 2 said in a statement. “However, we still have a long road ahead of us to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities.”
The Oregon fire, which was struck by lightning, has ravaged the sparsely populated southern part of the state and pushed up by strong winds and severely dry weather, expanding up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day. Was.
More than a third of the fires being fought by more than 2,200 people have now been brought under control.
On Thursday, officials said that at least nine people who worked in the fire had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Oregon Department of Forestry said people who test positive are turned away from the main fire camp. In addition, people who report symptoms and anyone they work closely with are tested and put in isolation till the results are back.
At least 2,000 homes were ordered to be evacuated during the fire and an additional 5,000 were threatened. At least 70 houses and more than 100 buildings have been burnt, but no one has been reported dead.
Meanwhile the Tamarack fire south of Lake Tahoe had burned more than 78 square miles (202 square kilometers) of wood and head-high chaparral in national forest land. It erupted on July 4 and was one of nearly two dozen blasts caused by lightning strikes.
More than 1,200 firefighters were battling the Alpine County fire, which destroyed at least 10 buildings, forced evacuations in several communities and closed off parts of US 395 in Nevada and California. Fire officials expected active or extreme fire behavior Thursday, with winds of 14 mph (23 kph) and temperatures near 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius).
“They are continuously calling for hot, dry and windy conditions. Obviously, this is a matter of concern. Those winds pick up every afternoon,” said Tamarack Fire Incident Command’s public information officer Tracey LeClaire.
Voluntary evacuation requests were also issued for parts of Douglas County, Nevada. An evacuation center was established at a community center in Gardnerville, Nevada.
Bill Beidler, an evacuation from Woodfords, California, said: “We’ve been suppressing fires for generations, when we get one, that’s what we get. Everything burns. People are losing their homes and everything.”
In the Northwest, the summer fun of boating and bathing came to an abrupt end to the holidays at Lake Almanor, as the Dixie Fire spread to the western part of the Sierra Nevada, covering more than 162 square miles. The west shore of Resort Lake and several other small communities were ordered to be evacuated.
Meanwhile, Oregon on Wednesday banned all campfires on state-managed land and in state campgrounds east of Interstate 5, the major highway generally considered the dividing line between the wet western half of the state and the dry eastern half. is.
Extremely dry conditions and recent heat waves associated with climate change have made it harder to fight wildfires. Climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
Associated Press videographer Heaven Daily from Gardnerville, Nevada contributed.