Wildfires in California and Montana explode in size, forcing evacuation orders | Forest fires

Forest fires in California and Montana exploded in size in windy, hot conditions, forcing evacuation orders as they rapidly encroached on neighborhoods.

In California’s Klamath National Forest, the rapid McKinney Fire, which started on Friday, grew from just over 1 square mile (1 km2) to 62 square miles (160 km2) on Saturday in a largely rural area near the Oregon state line, according to firefighters.

The blaze burned down at least a dozen residences and wild animals were seen fleeing the area to avoid the flames. At least 2,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.

during this time at Montana, the Elmo wildfire nearly tripled in size to more than 11 square miles within a few miles of the town of Elmo. And about 200 miles south, Idaho residents remained under evacuation orders as the Moose Fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest charred more than 67.5 square miles of woodlands near the town of Salmon. It was contained at 17%.

A heavy accumulation of vegetation was fueling the McKinney Fire, said Tom Stokesberry, U.S. Forest Service spokesman for the region.

“It’s a very dangerous fire, the geography there is steep and rugged, and that particular area hasn’t burned in a while,” he said.

“It continues to grow with erratic winds and thunderstorms in the area and we are in triple digit temperatures,” said Caroline Quintanilla, spokeswoman for Klamath National Forest.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday as the fire escalated. The proclamation gives Newsom more flexibility in making emergency response and recovery effort decisions and accessing federal assistance. It also allows “firefighting resources from other states to assist California crews with firefighting,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.

With red flag warnings in effect for the region and lightning forecast expected over the next few days, resources from across California have been mobilized to help fight the region’s fires, said Stokesberry, the spokesman for the US Forest Service.

McKinney’s explosive growth has forced crews to shift from trying to control the fire’s perimeter to trying to protect homes and critical infrastructure like water tanks and power lines, and assisting with evacuations in Siskiyou County, the northernmost in California.

Deputies and law enforcement were knocking on the doors of the Yreka County seat and the town of Fort Jones urging residents to get out and evacuate their livestock safely in trailers. Automated calls were also being sent to landline telephones as there were areas with no cell phone service.

More than 100 homes were ordered to evacuate and authorities were warning people to be on high alert. Smoke from the fire caused the closure of portions of Highway 96.

The Pacific Coast Trail Association urged hikers to get to the nearest town while the US Forest Service closed a 110-mile section of the trail from Mount Etna’s summit to Mount Ashland Campground in southern Oregon.

Oregon State Rep. Dacia Grayber, who is a firefighter, was camping with her husband, who is also in the fire service, near the California state line when high winds woke them up just after midnight.

The sky shone with lightning in the clouds, as ash blew over them, despite being in Oregon, about 10 miles away. The intense heat from the fire sent up a massive pyrocumulonimbus cloud, which can produce its own weather system, including winds and thunderstorms, Grayber said.

“It’s the worst winds I’ve ever seen and we’re used to big fires,” she said. “I thought it was going to rip the tent off the roof of our truck. We got out of there.

As they exited, they passed hikers on the Pacific Coast Trail fleeing to safety.

“The terrifying part for us was the wind speed,” she said. “It went from a fairly cool blustery night to warm, dry hurricane-force winds.”

In western Montana, the wind-driven Elmo Fire forced the evacuation of homes and livestock as it ripped through grass and woods, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, based in Idaho. The agency estimated that it would take almost a month to contain the fire.

Smoke shut down part of Highway 28 between Hot Springs and Elmo due to heavy smoke, according to the Montana Department of Transportation.

Crews from several different agencies were battling the blaze on Saturday, including the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes Fire Division. Six helicopters were making drops on the fire, aided by 22 ground engines.

In Idaho, more than 930 wildland firefighters and support personnel were battling the Moose Fire Saturday and protecting homes, energy infrastructure and the Highway 93 corridor, a major north-south route.

A red flag warning said the weather could make matters worse with the forecast calling for “dry thunderstorms”, with lightning, wind and no rain.

In Hawaii, fire crews and helicopters battled flames Saturday night in Maui near Paia Bay. The Maui County Emergency Management Agency said roads had been closed and advised residents and travelers to avoid the area. It is not known how many acres burned. A red flag warning is in effect Sunday.

Meanwhile, crews made significant progress battling another major fire in California that forced the evacuation of thousands of people near Yosemite National Park earlier this month. The Oak Fire was 52% contained Saturday, according to an incident update from Cal Fire. But amid the scorching temperatures, the danger was not entirely averted, with structures and homes at risk until the blaze was fully extinguished.

The fires come as scorching temperatures bake the Pacific Northwest, the west remains parched from record drought and severe storms have caused flash flooding in several states. In Kentucky, flash floods have claimed life of at least 25 people in what experts have called a 1 in 1,000 year rainfall event.

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