As California’s largest wildfire devastated multiple homes, flames raced across rugged terrain, and while other fires hit the American West, the Oregon governor said the climate crisis was “like a hammer hitting us in the head.”
“We have to move,” Kate Brown said.
In California, the Dixie Fire, which began on July 14, had already destroyed more than a dozen buildings when it devastated the small community of Indian Falls after dark on Saturday.
A new damage estimate was not immediately available, but fire officials said the fire had charred 298 square miles of timber and twigs in Plumas and Bute counties and was 21 percent contained.
Rick Carhart, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said firefighters using hand tools have been forced to hike through rugged terrain where the engines could not run.
“It was burning in very steep canyons, in places where it is almost impossible for humans to set foot on the ground to get there,” he said. “It will be a long journey.”
Crews have made progress setting fires to steal main fuel, Carhart said. The fire prompted evacuation orders in several small mountain communities and along the western shore of Lake Al Manor, a popular resort. About 10,000 homes were under threat.
The largest US wildfire, the Bootleg Fire in the South OregonAbout half of them are trapped, fire officials said, with more than 2,200 crew members working in the heat and wind. The fire slowed, but thousands of homes remained at risk.
“This fire is resisting stopping at tractor lines,” Jim Hanson, a fire behavior analyst, said in a news release from the Oregon Department of Forestry. “With the extreme dry weather and fuel we’re seeing, firefighters have to constantly reevaluate control lines and look for emergency options.”
Brown, the Democratic governor of Oregon, spoke to State of the Union on CNN.
“The harsh reality is we are going to see more of these bushfires,” she said. “It’s hotter, it’s more ferocious and obviously more difficult to deal with. It is a sign of the effects of the changing climate.”
Last year, Oregon issued four federal emergency declarations in addition to the pandemic. We saw historic wildfires last fall and we are still rebuilding and recovering from them. We had terrible ice storms in February. More than half a million people lost power. And then recently, you know, we had the thermal dome event… we unfortunately lost over 100 Oregonians.
“So climate change is here, it’s real and it’s like a hammer hitting us in the head. And we have to take action.”
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for four northern counties due to wildfires that have caused “extremely dangerous conditions for the safety of people and property.” The advertisement opened the way for more state support.
Brown praised the federal government.
“The Biden-Harris administration has stepped up,” she said. “They recognize that we need a comprehensive, collaborative approach to confronting the wildfires. Obviously we still need additional financial resources and forces on the ground. But that is something we will have a conversation about in the post bushfire season.”
Random, short-term and natural weather patterns are increasing due to long-term human-caused climate change. Global warming has made the West warmer and drier over the past 30 years.
“It’s very important for climate change that we get into these forests and start mandatory thinning and harvesting and burning, so that we can create healthier landscapes, and landscapes that are more resilient to wildfires,” Brown said.
In southwest Montana, officials focused on three fires amid expectations of high temperatures, low humidity and westerly winds that could lead to explosive growth.
Firefighting spokesman Jason Nidlow said crews were trying to protect about 200 homes and cabins and prevent the 44-square-mile Trail Creek fire from reaching the national battlefield at Big Hole in Beaverhead County. The battlefield is closed.
Five federal firefighters were in stable condition after winds set off a wildfire that caused lightning in eastern Montana Thursday. The five were building a defensive line at the Devils Creek fire in Garfield County when the weather changed.
Another high-priority fire, the Alder Creek Fire in southwest Montana, destroyed more than 6,800 acres and was 10% contained. It was threatening nearly 240 homes.
The Tamarack fire south of Lake Tahoe continued to threaten communities on both sides of the California and Nevada state line. The fire, which was triggered by lightning on July 4, destroyed at least 10 buildings.
The thick smoke from this fire and the Dixie fire reduced visibility and threatened the ground planes providing support to the firefighting crews. Air quality south of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, has deteriorated to extremely unhealthy levels.
In north-central Washington, firefighters encountered two fires in Okanogan County that threatened hundreds of homes and worsened air quality. In northern Idaho, east of Spokane, Washington, a small fire near Silverwood theme park led to evacuations. The park was reopened Saturday with the fire half-contained.
The weekend forecast also called for the possibility of scattered thunderstorms in California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and elsewhere. Some of them may be dry thunderstorms that produce little rain but a lot of lightning, which can lead to fires.
By Sunday, more than 85 major fires had broken out around the United States. They burned more than 1.4 million acres.