Hot, windy weather could intensify fires this week, officials warn

As crews continue to battle flames in California and Oregon, officials are warning that increased temperatures and fast winds could create dangerous conditions for firefighters this week. 

“I think we definitely have a few hard days ahead of us,” Shannon Prather, of the U.S. Forest Service, told the Associated Press. 

The Dixie fire, California’s biggest blaze, has continued to grow in recent weeks, destroying 67 homes and structures and threatening 12,000 more. Located near California’s Feather River Canyon, the flames cover 274,139 acres and are only 35% contained. 

US-FIRE
Trees smolder and burn in Division Echo Echo of the Bootleg Fire on July 25, 2021 MATHIEU LEWIS-ROLLAND/AFP via Getty Images

“Fire continues to move toward control lines burning unburned interior islands and ridges,” California Fire said in a Wednesday update of the Dixie fire’s west zone. “Steep terrain, heavy fuel loading, and wind in alignment with canyons is making control difficult.”

In addition to hot weather conditions, winds have begun to gust up to 20 miles per hour, making the blaze harder to control. The original cause of the fire is still under investigation. 

In Oregon, high temperatures have threatened fire brigades’ hard-earned ground with the Bootleg fire. As of Tuesday, the fire — which is the third largest in Oregon’s history and currently the largest in the nation —  was 84% contained, with 1,493 fire personnel working to prevent flare ups. 

Both a red flag warning and fire weather watch are in effect for the second day this week, but officials say that the Bootleg fire line continues to hold. Crews estimate that the fire will be fully contained in early October. 

In addition to fire concerns, officials continue to warn residents about a decrease in air quality. 

“Like anything you are concerned about, the best thing you can do is to get ready ahead of time,” air quality advisor Margaret Key said Wednesday. “There are simple things you can do to get smoke ready.”

California and Oregon aren’t the only states fighting fires. Firefighters are currently battling blazes in 14 states, with over 96 wildfires burning nearly 3,000 square miles, according to the National Interagency Fire Center

The US Forest Service is also warning residents to be vigilant about preventing new fires. 

“Any accidental or negligent release of sparks or heat can result in a fire that quickly gets out of control,” Fire Prevention and Incident Public Information Officer Kristian Knutson said in an update Tuesday. “Be sure to remove combustibles from around the outside of your home, such as firewood, fuel tanks, and gas grills. Keep shrubs and tree limbs away from your house and off the ground.”

“At this time of year, one less spark could mean one less wildfire,” the Forest Service said. “Crews are working tirelessly to ensure we are as prepared as we can be for the extreme fire weather forecast for the next couple days.” 

The CBSN documentary Bring Your Own Brigadecaptures the horror and heroism of the deadliest week of wildfires in California history and explores the causes and solutions of a global crisis that is quite literally burning our world to the ground. Watch “Bring Your Own Brigade” in theaters starting August 6, and stream it on the CBS News app or Paramount+ on August 20.