Nearly 22,000 firefighters and support personnel were battling 83 large, active wildfires covering 2,720 square miles (7,044 square kilometers) in 13 states Friday, the National Interagency Fire Center said.
The Northwest continues to suffer while a monsoon helped ease conditions in the Southwest with much-needed rainfall. The historic drought and recent heatwaves have made wildfires otherwise difficult to handle, but after months of reacting to new fires in different states, firefighters have started to get a handle on the situation.
A firefighter uses a drip torch to ignite vegetation while trying to stop the Dixie Fire from spreading in Lassen National Forest, Calif., on Monday, July 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
However, other problems continue to plague the region: Rolling power outages prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsome to sign an emergency order on Friday to offer cash incentives to big energy users such as factories or casinos to conserve power, and smoke produced from the fires chokes the air over Midwestern states.
California’s largest wildfire, the Dixie Fire, covered 244,000 acres in the northern part of the state, where it destroyed 42 homes and other buildings. The fire produced a huge “fire cloud” on Thursday that sent smoke and ash into the air.
The “fire clouds” spew material nearly 6 miles into the atmosphere and are visible from 100 to 120 miles away. Strong upper-level winds carry these plumes of smoke east across the U.S. and parts of Canada, creating terrible air quality in those areas.
Even Minnesota, which sits hundreds of miles from the fires, has continued to alert residents to “unprecedented air quality” events through at least Aug. 3, Forbes reported.
Flames from the Dixie Fire crest a hill in Lassen National Forest, Calif., near Jonesville on Monday, July 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Residents do not need to worry about the fires spreading beyond the lines of control, though, a fire official said.
“There’s nothing close to our line right now. It’s all interior fuels burning,” Mike Wink, an incident commander, said in an online briefing. Crews expect the fire to be 100% contained within the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Bootleg fire, which is currently the nation’s largest fire, is more than halfway contained after burning up over 413,000 acres. Despite that progress, officials caution that the fire may continue to burn into the fall season, NPR reported.
The fire line might have double its coverage to prevent the Bootleg Fire from spreading any further.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.