Wildfires spread in California as oppressive heat wave continues

Firefighters throughout California continued Monday to battle multiple blazes fueled by extreme heat and other conditions. More than 2 million acres have been burned in the state this year, a record high.

“It’s a little unnerving because September and October are historically our worst months for fires,”  California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff said Monday. “It’s usually hot, and the fuels really dry out. And we see more of our wind events.”

The previous record was set in 1987 at 1.96 million acres, according to The Associated Press.

The massive Creek Fire burning in the Sierra region area has grown to over 135,500 acres as of Monday eveinng. The fire is being fueled by dead trees that were devastated by the bark beetle in recent years.

“The fire continued to grow (over night) under extreme conditions,” Cal Fire said in a news release. “Fuels continue to be the main influence of the fire with heavy fuel loading from dead and down material. The timber in the area has approximately 80-90% tree mortality from the bark beetle.” 

Fresno County Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau said Monday that the Creek Fire was initially seemed like it was contained before it began to spread. “They had it down at one point to a third of acre before they lost control. It is what it is,” he said Monday.

Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the area on Monday. Auberry and North Fork were both placed under mandatory evacuation orders, CBS San Francisco reports.

In Southern California, the El Dorado Fire, which was sparked by a pyrotechnic device used in a gender reveal party, has burned over 7,300 acres and is only 7% contained, according to Cal Fire. Multiple homes have been destroyed and some 21,000 residents have been evacuated, CBS Los Angeles reports. Triple-digit temperatures and low humidity are helping the fire spread.

Multiple national forests will be closed Monday night due to the wildfires. Sequoia National Forest, Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest and Cleveland National Forest will be closed to all visitors starting at 5 p.m. local time, the U.S. Forest Service said.

“Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire,” said Randy Moore, regional forester for the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region.

A state of emergency was declared in San Diego County as the Valley Fire burned over 10,200 acres and was only 1% contained. Evacuations were ordered in the area and at least 11 structures have been destroyed, CBS San Diego affiliate KFMB-TV reports.

A new wildfire also broke out north of Willits, California, on Monday afternoon. The fire had only spread to 25 acres when evacuations were ordered over fears that the flames could spread quickly, CBS San Francisco reports. As of Monday evening, the Oak Fire had burned 1,000 acres.

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