August 4, 2021

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California wildfire grows explosively, prompts evacuations – NBC News

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A California wildfire underwent explosive growth Friday as the area north of Lake Tahoe braced for triple-digit temperatures this weekend amid a summer heat wave.

The Beckwourth Complex Fire on federal land near the town of Beckwourth prompted evacuations, a closure of part of the Plumas National Forest and presented serious danger for area campgrounds, National Forest Service officials said.

As the fire moved east toward Nevada, officials were considering closing Highway 395, a popular route with tourists heading to Reno, said forest service spokeswoman Phyllis Ashmead. A nearby rail line was also being threatened, spokeswoman Lisa Cox added later.

Firefighters battle the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, burning in Plumas National Forest, Calif., July 8, 2021.Noah Berger / AP

Multiple other roadways, including state route 284, were closed because of the fire.

“Yesterday it took a big run,” she said, “and today it’s grown even more.”

Containment was limited to 9 percent Friday, and 38,056 acres had burned. A singular complex fire was declared July 4 after the Dotta Fire, which started June 30, and the Sugar Fire, which began July 2, combined. Both were sparked by lightning strikes, federal officials said.

The complex fire nearly doubled by Friday, adding 10,000 acres to its footprint, forest officials reported. Then it added another 14,871 acres by evening, they said.

The weather outlook was bleak. The National Weather Service reported lightning strikes on the east flank of the blaze.

“Cloud-to-ground lightning and erratic outflow winds greater than 30 mph are possible near the complex,” the weather service said in a special weather statement Friday.

It was 94 degrees Friday in Beckwourth, about 55 miles north of Lake Tahoe. An excessive heat was warning was scheduled to take effect Saturday at noon through Monday night.

Firefighters monitor the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, burning in Plumas National Forest, Calif., July 8, 2021.Noah Berger / AP

The warning signifies “dangerously hot conditions” and temperatures at near 100 degrees, the weather service said.

The U.S. Forest Service predicted in an incident report that by Saturday “fire activity will increase.” “The weather will become hotter and dryer with a forecasted heat wave this weekend,” it said.

The Beckwourth Complex Fire appeared to be the most serious of several brush fires burning in California Friday. “Climate change is considered a key driver” of the state’s recent wildfire woes, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said earlier this year.

On Thursday Gov. Gavin Newsom called on residents Thursday to cut back water consumption by 15 percent amid a statewide drought and far-reaching heat wave.

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