- More than 80 current wildfires were burning on 1,157,976 acres in 13 states.
- 20,000 firefighters are fighting the flames.
- “Clouds of fire” and dry lightning add to the misery.
Pacific Gas & Electric said on Sunday that its equipment may have been involved in the start of the Dixie Fire blaze in the Sierra Nevada, the nation’s largest utility has reported to California regulators.
The utility said in a filing on Sunday that a repairman responding to a circuit outage on July 13 spotted blown fuses in a conductor atop a pole, a tree leaning into the conductor and a fire at the base of the tree.
PG&E equipment has been repeatedly linked to major forest fires, including the 2018 fire that ravaged Paradise.
The Dixie Fire has expanded to 29 square miles, much of it in isolated wilderness. The utility said investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection recovered material at the scene.
Meanwhile, powerful storms forecast for parts of the drought-stricken west this week could actually do more harm than good as “clouds of fire” and dry lightning sweep through an already dotted area. forest fires fueled by parched vegetation, heat and winds.
The storms have caused flash floods in Phoenix and other parts of the southwest, but less rain is expected further north.
“These storms can cause cloud-to-ground lightning and start fires,” AccuWeather meteorologist Thomas Geiger warned.
More than 80 wildfires burned over 1,157,976 acres in 13 states, fought by nearly 20,000 firefighters. Generally unstable weather conditions could add to the misery in the coming days, the National Interagency Fire Center has warned.
In north-central California, the Dixie Fire had burned 30 square miles and threatened more than 800 homes and other structures. The remoteness of the fire, along with the steep terrain, added to the challenges faced by hundreds of firefighters.
“Thunderstorms with abundant lightning and little precipitation could produce new fire starts,” the National Weather Service of Sacramento said.
The edge of the blaze is only a few miles from the town of Paradise, which burned almost to the ground in a wildfire three years ago that killed 85 people. But the blaze was moving away from the city and no evacuation was ordered or evacuation warning given on Monday morning.
Forest fire explodes near Lake Tahoe: Hundreds flee
Large “pyrocumulus clouds” formed over the Dixie Fire, producing a massive column of smoke that further increased the activity of the fires, CalFire said in its latest incident report. Pyrocumulus clouds – clouds of fire – look like giant, dirty-colored thunder heads that sit atop a huge column of smoke rising from a forest fire . Often the top of the smoke column flattens out into the shape of an anvil.
In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire also produced pyrocumulus clouds. This fire burned nearly 500 square miles and is one of the largest fires in Oregon history. Firefighters say clouds of pyrocumulus form every day between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. as the sun penetrates the layer of smoke and warms the ground below, creating an updraft of warm air.
The blaze, which started two weeks ago, remains “very active” and is spreading due to the hot, dry and windy conditions, fire officials said in a grim update on Saturday evening.
“Poor moisture recovery at night contributes to the active spread of the fire,” fire officials said. “Robust rates of spread are being generated by the drought-affected fuels. Similar conditions are expected for the next few days.”
Along the California-Nevada border, the Tamarack fire had burned about 30 square miles. The fire destroyed some structures and threatened the small Californian hamlet of Markleeville, populated by less than 150 inhabitants.
Dena Brown posted on Twitter that her father had been evacuated.
“We just had a 6.0 earthquake recently. #Prayerrequest #TamarackFire,” she wrote.
Contribution: The Associated Press