A weather system hitting northwestern California was expected to bring dry lightning bolts and stormy winds into early Friday morning, unleashing the risk of new wildfires as thousands of firefighters have advanced on existing fires.
A hazardous fire weather warning went into effect across much of fire-scarred northern California on Thursday afternoon and was expected to last until at least 11 a.m. Friday.
“The combination of isolated dry lightning and gusty winds with dry fuels will bring the possibility of critical fire weather conditions,” the National Weather Service said.
A historic drought and recent heat waves linked to climate change have made wildfires more difficult to fight in the western United States. Scientists say climate change has made the region much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Wednesday that firefighters were making significant progress against the flames, in part because the weather had improved.
More than 14,600 firefighters were on the lines of 13 large active wildfires in California on Thursday.
The Dixie Fire in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Range grew to approximately 1,451 square miles (3,758 square kilometers), but was 59% contained. It is the second largest fire on record in California. Only the complex from August last year was larger, at just over 1,613 square miles (4,177 square kilometers).
Near Lake Tahoe, the Caldor fire grew only slightly, to just over 341 square miles (884 square kilometers), and was 53% contained.
Nationwide, some 22,000 firefighters were working on 79 large active wildfires in nine western states and Minnesota, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
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