Wildfires in California and Montana explode overnight in windy and hot conditions

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 the summit of Mount Etna to Mount Ashland Campground in the south from 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. They offered rides, but one hiker said he’d just have a beer, which they gave her, she said.

“The terrifying part for us was the wind speed,” she said. “It went from a fairly cool blustery night to hot, dry hurricane force winds. Usually this happens with a fire during the day, but not at night. I hope for everyone’s sake that this goes away. will fade, but it looks like it will get worse.

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 Montana-based National Interagency Fire Center. 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.

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.

As fires raged across the West, the U.S. House on Friday approved far-reaching legislation aimed at helping communities across the region cope with increasingly severe wildfires and drought – fueled by climate change – that have caused billions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses in recent years.

The legislation approved by federal lawmakers on Friday combines 49 separate bills and would increase the pay and benefits of firefighters; stimulate resilience and mitigation projects for communities affected by climate change; protect watersheds; and making it easier to get federal help for wildfire victims.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has sponsored a similar measure.

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