Among dozens of blazes raging across the drought-stricken western United States, one newly ignited fire drawing attention on Thursday (July 15) was the Dixie fire, which erupted on Wednesday in Butte County, California, near the mountain town of Paradise, still rebuilding from a 2018 firestorm that killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 structures in the state’s deadliest wildfire disaster.
The Dixie fire has charred about 2,250 acres (910 hectares) in its first 24 hours as some 500 personnel battled the blaze, which was spreading across a steep, rocky tree-filled terrain about 85 miles (140 km) north of Sacramento.
The Dixie fire is only one of 70 major active wildfires listed on Thursday as having affected nearly 1 million acres in 11 states, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, reported.
The so-called Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon ranks as the largest by far. It was also the sixth-largest on record in Oregon since 1900, according to state forestry figures.
Hand crews backed by water-dropping helicopters struggled on Thursday to suppress the huge wildfire that displaced roughly 2,000 residents.
The Bootleg fire has charred more than 227,000 acres (91,860 hectares) of desiccated timber and brush in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest since erupting on July 6 about 250 miles (400 km) south of Portland.
That total, exceeding the land mass of New York City, was 12,000 acres higher than Wednesday’s tally. Strike teams have carved containment lines around 7% of the fires’s perimeter, up from 5% a day earlier, but Incident Commander Joe Hessel said the blaze would continue to expand.
Other states hard hit by the latest spate of wildfires include Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
The situation represents an unusually busy start to the annual fire season, coming amid extremely dry conditions and record-breaking heat that has baked much of the West in recent weeks.
Scientists have said the growing frequency and intensity of wildfires are largely attributable to prolonged drought that is symptomatic of climate change.
(Production: Mathieu Lewis Rolland, David Swanson, Njuwa Maina, Mana Rabiee)