Crews were digging and burning lines of fire amid another round of high winds Saturday contributed to the fury of a wildfire in northern California.
“We have a shootout ahead of us and the wind today is going to make it very difficult,” said Keith Wade, spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
The Caldor fire in the northern Sierra Nevada has already destroyed dozens of homes, and authorities on Friday closed a 74-kilometer stretch of Interstate 50, the main road between the state capital of Sacramento and the Lake Tahoe in the state of Nevada. line.
The highway was closed after debris from the fire fell onto the roadway and due to red flag warnings for winds of 20 to 30 mph (32 to 48 km / h) which on Saturday night “combined to extremely dry fuels, will result in fire weather conditions in the vicinity of the Caldor fire, ”the National Weather Service said.
Winds could be 40 mph (65 km / h) on Saturday.
The road is a key checkpoint as crews battle the blaze, which erupted earlier this week and grew 10 times its size in a matter of days, fueled by the winds.
“We’re going to invest everything we can to keep the fire south” of the road, said Eric Schwab, operations section chief at Cal Fire.
Firefighters advanced on the west side of the blaze and burned vegetation to starve it of fuel and prevent the flames from moving towards the evacuated community of Pollock Pines. On the northeast side, crews were protecting cabins in the dense forest area, firefighters said.
The Caldor fire had now devoured about 130 square miles (310 square kilometers) on Saturday and more than 1,500 firefighters were fighting it amid heavy woods and rough terrain.
The blaze was one of a dozen large California wildfires that burned northern California, burning at least 700 homes alone in and around the communities of Greenville and Grizzly Flats in the Sierra Nevada.
The fires, mostly in the upstate, burned nearly 1.5 million acres, or about 2,300 square miles (6,000 square kilometers) and sent smoke up the east coast. They were burning in unusually dry grass, brush and forest after two years of drought likely exacerbated by climate change.
Thousands of homes remain under threat in communities nestled in scenic forests and tens of thousands of people remain under evacuation orders.
Nine national forests in the region have been closed due to the threat of fire.
Northwest of the Caldor blaze, the massive Dixie blaze continued to spread and new evacuations were ordered, including the tiny hamlet of Taylorsville. In five weeks, the blaze about 282 miles northeast of San Francisco became the second largest in state history and blackened an area twice the size of Los Angeles.
The weather forecast calls for a storm system that will bring winds but little rain to northern California early next week. This will lead to increased risk of fires. Dozens have erupted in recent days but were quickly eradicated.
One exception was the Cache Fire, a small, fast-moving grass fire that ravaged at least 56 homes and virtually wiped out a mobile home park.
Some of the people forced to flee the flames had to abandon their pets.
Emily Crum, animal control officer at North Bay Animal Services, got a surprise while looking for abandoned animals in the Clearlake area.
She spotted a black dog in charred ground.
“I saw her lying there. I thought she was dead, ”Crum said. “Then she started wagging her tail. “
Although he was chained to a boat trailer, the mutt named Sammy was not injured, Crum said.
Cats, goats and chickens were also rescued.
California is one of a dozen predominantly Western states where 99 large active fires were burning on Friday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
The fires intensified across the West, creating an almost year-round season that taxed firefighters. The fire patterns migrated through the seasons from the Southwest to the Rockies, the Pacific Northwest, to California, allowing firefighters to move from location to location, said Anthony Scardina, regional forester. deputy of the US Forest Service.
“But the problem is all these seasons are starting to overlap,” said Scardina.