Fire experts say California is seeing more extreme fire behavior driven by drought and warming temperatures that can spread flames far more rapidly, leaving less time for warnings or evacuations. Explosive fires that quickly consume tens of thousands of acres were rare 30 years ago. So were fires from super-heated fuels that can create thunderstorms that in some instances spin off ‘firenadoes.’ Just as troubling are the hot, dry winds that occurred before what would historically be the peak of the state’s wildfire season.
The monstrous Bear Fire has been renamed the North Complex West Zone, according to Cal-Fire. The fire, behaved in ways that shocked the most seasoned of fire experts in the past two days, growing in size to well over 70,000 acres. There have been three civilian fatalities confirmed as vast areas are under evacuation orders. Cal-Fire says that at least 2000 structures have been damaged or destroyed in Berry Creek, Feather Falls and other communities in the path of the inferno as it advanced about 25 miles in a single day. The North Complex also includes the Sheep Fire and the Claremont Fire. It has burned a combined 247,000 acres with overall containment of 23%.
The Slater Fire in the Klamath National Forest has forced evacuation of all of Happy Camp and surrounding communities. The Slater has quadrupled since Wednesday to 120,000 acres, with 150 homes confirmed lost in Happy Camp. There’s also one confirmed fatality resulting from the fire. It’s now crossed into Oregon, with no containment.
The Elkhorn Fire in the Tomhead Mountain Area of Western Tehama County has merged with the Hopkins, Vinegar Peak and Willow Basin Fires for an overall size of 255,300 acres with 27% containment. Zenia, Kettenpom, Hettenshaw Valley and all areas south of Ruth are under mandatory evacuation.
The August Lightning Fire Complex no longer includes the Hopkins Fire or the Willow Basin. The complex northwest of Willows started August 17th on the Mendocino National Forest and has burned a combined 372,000 acres in 5 different counties with an estimated overall containment of 24%.
The Red Salmon Complex in the Trinity Alps Wilderness about 14 miles northeast of Willow Creek has expanded to 71,600 acres and containment is only 18%.
A Sagebrush and Juniper fire in Eastern Lassen and Modoc Counties is nearly contained. The Cold Springs Fire has burned around 84,800 acres with 98% containment. Also contained are the 230 acre Spring Fire and the 413 acre Hobo Fire, both in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.