A nation’s largest wildfire endangered thousands of homes in Northern California on Sunday, Aug. 15, with temperatures predicted to reach 100 degrees (38 degrees Celsius), while authorities cautioned that the risk of new fires emerging across the West was high due to unpredictable weather.
The Dixie Fire, which had been blazing for a month, was the largest of over 100 massive fires raging across more than a dozen Western states, previously scorched by drought and hot, dry weather.
The U.S. Forest Service announced it is in crisis mode on Friday, with all firefighters deployed and its assistance system at maximum capacity.
The Dixie Fire has burned over 867 square miles (2,246 square kilometers)—an area the size of Tokyo—has more than 6,000 firefighters deployed. It was 31% controlled on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
Over 15,000 structures were threatened, besides more than 1,000 houses and enterprises were devastated.
Officials have not confirmed the leading cause of the wildfire. However, according to Pacific Gas and Electric, a tree falling on a power line may have started the blaze.
On Friday, thunderstorms with just a little rain whipped up winds and caused lightning strikes where firefighters were combating the Dixie Fire throughout the northern Sierra.
“We’re definitely still dealing with the possibility of lightning. Winds are all over the place. Things are going to be pretty unstable for the next couple days,” claimed spokesman Edwin Zuniga.
On Saturday, winds of up to 50 mph (80 kph) brought flames closer to Janesville, a town of approximately 1,500 people just east of Greenville, already obliterated by the fire 10 days ago.
“I still have a house standing, no damage. But I can’t get into it,” James Reichle, a Greenville resident who has been sleeping in a trailer outside a church with his dog, said on Saturday.
In sections of Northern California, Oregon, and Idaho, smoke also caused air pollution to reach harmful or very harmful rates.
Two wildfires ignited by lightning in southwestern Oregon on Thursday, Aug. 12, moved quickly through a region parched by excessive dryness.
According to a new study published in the journal Science Advances on Friday, Aug. 13, exposure to wildfire smoke during last summer’s wildfire season was linked to thousands of coronavirus infections and hundreds of deaths.
The authors discovered that over 20% of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus or (COVID-19) cases were linked to an increase in wildfire smoke in certain counties, all affected by wildfires. In addition, smoke was connected to an even higher percentage of deaths in several counties, Insider reported.
From March to December 2020, Harvard University researchers examined data from 92 counties in California, Oregon, and Washington. They discovered “strong evidence” that short-term exposure to fine particulate matter from wildfires increased CCP virus cases and deaths.
Researchers estimated that exposure to wildfire smoke caused almost 20,000 more coronavirus infections and 750 CCP virus deaths, per the study published in the journal Science Advances.
“These results provide strong evidence that, in many counties, the high levels of PM 2.5 that occurred during the 2020 wildfires substantially exacerbated the health burden of COVID-19,” the authors wrote.