CHICO, United States: Thousands of American firefighters are fighting a California fire that has grown so large that it is creating its own weather system, and authorities are warning that conditions may be triggered on Monday.
According to experts, the flames have grown large enough to create clouds, which can trigger lightning and high winds, which in turn fan the fire.
Some 5,400 firefighters struggled to contain hell, which was only held back by 22% late Monday, the California Fire and Forestry Administration said.
“If these clouds get high enough, they can actually cause lightning,” warned Julia Rutford, the government meteorologist in charge of the fire.
The Dixie fire has been raging in the forests of northern California since mid-July, part of the climate crisis that has resulted in sweltering heat and alarming drought. It merged with another fire over the weekend, prompting new evacuation orders.
John Cappleman, who lives in the countryside near Twain, told AFP that Dixie is “the biggest fire I’ve seen in my life,” but he has no plans to evacuate and is willing to fight the flames himself if he reaches his property. …
Cappleman pumps water from a nearby stream to keep the soil near his house moist, and says he, his wife, and their goats keep the surrounding area out of the bushes.
“A lot of people think we’re stupid,” Cappleman said of his family’s decision to stay.
But “you don’t leave the safety of your family in the hands of outsiders.”
Wildfires are common in the state, but this summer has been particularly incendiary.
This year, fires have already destroyed three times more vegetation than at this time in 2020, the strongest fire year in California history.
Rescue workers were dispatched from distant Florida to help contain Dixie’s fire and its pyrocumulus clouds.
Despite its size – the fire has a circumference of at least 82 miles and it burned 197,487 acres – it devastated remote areas, destroying dozens of houses and small structures along the way.
‘It was complicated’
When moving along steep slopes, firefighters sometimes travel by train, from which they can spray water into otherwise inaccessible areas.
But in these weather conditions, “the coals can indeed easily move a mile ahead of the fire,” Rick Carhart, a firefighter spokesman, told AFP.
This means that places such as the village of Quincy, where evacuees are being housed, are also under threat, he added.
Carhart said that sometimes firefighters had to carry tools and walk over rough terrain.
“It burned in very steep canyons, in some places where it is almost impossible for people to step on the ground to get there,” he told the local CBS affiliate. “It’s going to be a long way.”
“It was hard to watch him cruelly through our woodland,” Peggy Moak, a resident of a nearby village, told AFP.
Hell in California and neighboring Oregon came unusually early in the fire season due to years of drought, gusty winds and a scorching early summer that experts have linked to climate change.
On a golf course with yellowed grass or in a nearly dry lake, signs of drought, fueling flames, can be seen everywhere.
Preliminary investigation revealed that the Dixie fire broke out after a tree fell on one of the thousands of power lines that dot the state’s landscape.
The power line was owned by Pacific Gas & Company (PG&E), a private operator previously convicted of a fire in 2018 that nearly destroyed the nearby town of Paradise and killed 86 people.AFP