The weather has made it difficult for crews to contain some of the large wildfires burning in the West. Until conditions improve, firefighters will have a hard time making headway.
Perhaps the fire giving crews the most trouble has been the Dixie fire in Northern California. It’s been burning since July 13 and, as of early Thursday morning, covered more than 300,000 acres. It has grown more than 27,000 acres in the past few days, and it’s only 35% contained. Also, it’s the second-largest fire in the nation behind the Bootleg fire in southern Oregon.
The air has been very dry in this fire area all week, and winds have been gusting to at least 30 mph at times. Combined with a major drought, these conditions have caused the fire to spread quickly toward the town of Greenville, about 110 miles north of Sacramento. The fire has destroyed some homes and businesses, and people have been evacuating.
Steep terrain, heavy fuel loading and wind in alignment with canyons have also made control difficult. Anything that can burn is fuel for a fire. During a wildland fire all kinds of plant material can act as fuels, including grasses, shrubs, trees, dead leaves and fallen pine needles.
The Dixie fire is just one of 96 large fires currently burning across the country. As of Wednesday afternoon, they had scorched almost 1.9 million acres in 14 states, 13 of them in the West.
Unfortunately, the weather will not be kind to crews again Thursday in many wildfire areas from California to the Northwest. The National Weather Service is continuing red flag warnings until at least Thursday evening as daytime relative humidity remains below 20%, and wind gusts reach 30 to 40 mph away from thunderstorms that may pop up. Gusts could hit 50 mph near thunderstorms, which will produce lightning but not much rain.
Many of the large fires have resulted in mainly local road closures in fairly remote areas, but could impact some regional and dedicated route drivers. Thick smoke near the fires could reduce visibility for drivers, as well as producing unhealthy air. Watch out for poor air quality away from fires too, as smoke can drift downstream of the fires.
Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.
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