Multiple homes and properties were destroyed on Saturday as the Dixie Fire continued to rage in northern California, officials in the state said.
The blaze, 20 percent of which was contained on Saturday, has already charred more than 181,000 acres in Plumas and Butte counties, consuming more than a dozen homes and properties as it tore through the region, officials said.
The raging fire and heavy smoke have lead to evacuation orders in several communities and along the west shore of Lake Almanor.
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Elsewhere, the Tamarack fire continued to burn through timber and threaten communities to the south of Lake Tahoe on both sides of the California-Nevada border. The air quality in the area has also deteriorated to very unhealthy levels.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for four northern counties as flames spread on Friday, as the wildfires were causing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property,” he said.
Nearly 90 large fires had scorched more than 1.4 million acres across 13 states as of Saturday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
There has been so much smoke in the atmosphere from the fires in the west that it is helping firefighters gain ground on the Bootleg Fire, by blocking sunlight, officials said on Saturday.
“It’s called ‘smoke shading’ and it’s basically put a lid on the lower atmosphere for now, blocking sunlight and creating cooler, more stable surface conditions,” said Eric Schoening, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City. The phenomenon, however, is unpredictable and the area is still under red-flag warnings this weekend.
While the growth of the fire had finally slowed, thousands of homes in southern Oregon remained threatened. Extreme fire behavior and an unstable atmosphere by the Bootleg blaze also formed a tornado in the area last weekend.
“With the critically dry weather and fuels we are experiencing, firefighters are having to constantly reevaluate their control lines and look for contingency options,” Jim Hanson, fire behavior analyst, said in a Saturday news release from the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Also on Saturday, fire crews from California and Utah headed to Montana, the state’s governor Greg Gianforte announced, after five firefighters remained hospitalized after a thunderstorm blew a lightning-caused Montana wildfire back on them. The extent of their injuries is still unknown.
Another high-priority wildfire, the Alder Creek Fire in southwest Montana, had charred over 6,800 acres of land and threatened hundreds of homes. It was only 10 percent contained as of Saturday night.
Firefighters also continued to battle blazes in north-central Washington on Saturday, where hundreds of homes are under threat and air quality conditions continue to deteriorate.
While a chance of scattered thunderstorms over the weekend across California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and other western states could offer some respite, forecasters warned that dry storms that produce little rain but a lot of lightning can spark new blazes.
The smoke from the fierce fires has recently been carried all the way across the continental U.S. to the East Coast, where air quality alerts were issued.