Dangerous Wildfires

Worsening wildfires spread across California and the West

August 20, 2012

Firefighters keep watch near Viola, California, on Sunday.

Thousands of people in Northern California were told to leave their homes on Sunday because of growing wildfires. Officials said the fire started late Saturday as a result of  lightning strikes near Shingletown and Viola, California. Today firefighters are trying to stop the fire that has already destroyed seven homes and damaged nearly 23 square miles.

Fire Spokesman Daniel Berlant said about 3,000 homes are in danger as the fire spreads. “We will be battling it hard today to protect as many of those homes as possible,” he told the Associated Press.

Rescue Efforts

Wildfires have burned more than 73 square miles of the Plumas National Forest in California.

Wildfires have burned more than 73 square miles of the Plumas National Forest in California.

Nearly 1,200 firefighters are battling the flames today in thick forest areas. By Sunday night, no part of the blaze was contained and it had actually picked up, Berland said. The Shasta County Sheriff's Department has declared a State of Emergency for the county. The fire forced a major highway and local roads to be closed. The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center in Redding, California, about 35 miles west of the blaze.

John Cluff, 42, told the Redding Record Searchlight that he was forced to flee his home before the evacuations were issued. When he later went back to his home,"the fire basically chased me out of the property," he said. "All I could see was black smoke and flames."

Fires in the West

The wildfire near Redding is one of many burning across California and the west. Another wildfire that started Saturday has damaged about 8 square miles near Covelo, California. The area is very difficult for fire crews to get to. The blaze started because of lightning in a woody area.

A massive wildfire that has ben burning in the Plumas National Forest since July 29 grew larger over the weekend. The blaze, about 120 miles north of Sacramento, worsened with strong winds. It has damaged more than 73 square miles and put about 900 homes in danger. On Monday, officials said that the fire was 32 percent contained.

In Idaho, about 1,100 firefighters worked to protect some 350 homes in the Featherville area. A mandatory evacuation was issued as the fire slowly approached. Many people have evacuated the mountainous area but some people chose to stay. It’s unclear how many residents remained.

Changing weather conditions make it hard to predict when and how wildfires will spread. Fire spokeswoman Mallory Eils said the area was under a Red Flag Warning on Sunday with the chance of thunderstorms. “The fire will make it to Featherville,” she said. “It’s just a matter of when.” 

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