California interior is hot and dry and forecasts point to a risk of a dry fire as thousands of firefighters already have their hands full of wildfires
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif .– The interior of California was very hot and dry on Wednesday and forecasts predicted a risk of a dry fire as thousands of firefighters already have their hands full of wildfires that have been burning for weeks.
A National Weather Service heat warning spread along the Central Valley and through the interior of Southern California, with an excessive heat warning extending eastward across the desert to Nevada.
The manager of the public energy network called for voluntary conservation of electricity from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. due to the expected high demand for air conditioning. The alert ended with no major power outages being reported, but the conservation request was extended until 4-9 p.m. Thursday.
A fire weather watch was issued Thursday night through Friday night across much of the Northern California interior due to a weather system expected to result in thunderstorms with erratic lightning and gusts.
“The combination of possible dry lightning as well as strong winds with the dry fuels could lead to critical fire weather conditions,” the forecasters wrote.
Nearly 15,000 firefighters were progressing on 14 major wildfires and several new smaller fires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. They include three of the 20 largest fires on record in the state.
In the northern Sierra Nevada and the southern Cascade region, the second largest fire in California history burned nearly 1,441 square miles (3,732 square kilometers). The Dixie fire was 59% contained, but new evacuation orders have been issued for part of Shasta County.
Over 1,280 structures were destroyed, including 688 single-family homes.
To the south in the Sierra near Lake Tahoe, the nearly 340 square mile (880 square kilometer) Caldor’s Fire remained 50 percent contained. Firefighters were successful enough against the state’s 15th largest fire that residents of the city of South Lake Tahoe were allowed to return home last weekend. With inspections 95% complete, nearly 1,000 structures were counted destroyed, including 776 single-family homes.
The four major casino hotels in Stateline, Nevada, began reopening on Tuesday, including the Hard Rock Lake Tahoe, which is still in use as a command center for firefighters and emergency personnel. The Montbleu Resort, Casino and Spa resumed operations on Wednesday.
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe owner Caesars Entertainment Inc. said a phased reopening will include guest bookings on Wednesday and table games on Thursday. The company’s Harveys Lake Tahoe Casino is slated to reopen for slots and table games on September 17 and for hotel guests on September 18.
In the mountains of the far north of the coast, the 18th largest fire in the state ravaged more than 310 square miles (804 square kilometers) of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The fire at the monument was 45% contained but remained a threat to more than 10,500 structures.
California has seen increasingly large and deadly wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the western United States much hotter and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists said weather conditions will continue to be more extreme and forest fires more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.