Wildfires rolled across dry terrain in the Western United States and through a region of Canada, fueled by lightning, whipping winds and temperatures in the triple digits that have fanned the flames across parched lands.
The National Weather Service early on Monday issued red flag warnings, signaling critical conditions over the next 24 hours, for regions in at least six states. In some areas, firefighters have been battling fires for a week, trying to keep them from spreading across roads and churning through dry vegetation near populated areas.
Evacuations in California
As of Monday morning, 14 large wildfires were burning throughout California, with the largest ones in the Central Coast area, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Several fires along the coast had residents on edge, including the Alamo fire, east of Santa Maria, which grew to more than 43 square miles in steep, parched canyon land.
In Butte County, evacuations orders were in place on Monday because of the Wall fire, and 4,000 people had already left their homes. More than 1,000 firefighters have been battling flames from the 8.75-square-mile fire southeast of Oroville, which started on Friday. It was about 35 percent contained as of early Monday, the service said.
Gov. Jerry Brown over the weekend issued an emergency proclamation for Butte County because of the effects of the Wall fire. In addition to charring hundreds of acres, that blaze has damaged infrastructure, threatened homes and triggered the evacuations.
More than 14 active wildfires in Nevada
Some of them were contained on Sunday, including the 153-square-mile fire north of Fernley, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, a federal interagency group that coordinates on wildfire information, said.
Crews have been fighting the 64-square-mile Earthstone fire since July 3 as it ran through short grass and brush east of the city of Sparks. It was expected to be fully contained on Monday if firefighters can overcome the fanning of the flames by high winds, the coordinating group said.
A state of emergency in Arizona
In Arizona, more than 20 fires have broken out across the bottom half of the state in the past two months, from its southeastern tip near New Mexico to the outskirts of Tucson and west of Phoenix. Gov. Doug Ducey has declared a state of emergency, freeing more money to cover the growing costs of fighting fire on abnormally dry land, as the Times reported last month.
Lightning sparked one of the biggest fires in the state, which has grown to more than 54 square miles north of Black Canyon City in the Tonto National Forest since July 7. In the latest update on Monday, the fire was only 5 percent contained, driven by high winds from developing thunderstorms. Weather conditions, including high winds, have made the effort to bring the fire under control “challenging” and “dangerous,” said the incident commander, Andrew Mandell, in an interview with 12 News.
Partially under control in Montana
Montana’s firefighters by Monday had partially brought under control a 15-square-mile wildfire, which had gobbled up pine and grassland as its fuel, the N.W.C.G. said. A red flag warning, indicating critical weather conditions, was issued by the National Weather Service throughout the day with hot and dry conditions and possibly strong winds from thunderstorms exacerbating the effort.
Oregon, Washington and elsewhere across the West
Firefighters were battling or containing at least seven fires, hundreds of acres each, in Washington and Oregon, some caused by lightning, others under investigation, the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, which compiles information about fires in the two states, said on Monday.
Wildfires have also been reported in New Mexico. Idaho’s first warnings for the season came on Monday with the National Weather Service saying expected thunderstorms, humidity levels and powerful winds made conditions in the eastern part of the state susceptible to wildfires.
Thousands evacuated in Canada
Further north, in Canada, wildfires raged in multiple spots dotting British Columbia. Kevin Skrepnek, a spokesman for the Provincial Wildfire Coordination Center, told CNN that up to 10,000 people were ordered to evacuate as of Monday from what he described as major fires.