California's fire lines are facing new concerns from gusty winds

Northern California firefighters battled flames in Northern California forests Monday. A utility warned thousands of customers that it may cut electricity to stop new fires igniting if winds damage power lines.

California's fire lines are facing new concerns from gusty winds

Conditions that had suppressed the Dixie Fire overnight gave place to gusty winds in the afternoon that pushed flames through an area that has been ravaged by summer heat and drought.

It was just a few miles from Susanville (the county seat in Lassen County, with nearly 20,000 residents), and ash fell in that area. Janesville, a tiny mountain community nearby, was ordered to evacuate.

Although bulldozers had set fire lines in the direction of the northward-trending flame, fire spokesperson David Janssen stated that "a lot" of lines were being tested.

Although smoke had been slowing the fire's activity earlier in day, gusty winds arrived in afternoon and pushed it into extreme activity. The fire quickly erupted, torching large groups of trees, and quickly launching smaller spot fires, which were able to reach a few miles ahead of the main fire front, officials stated.

Janssen stated, "By the moment we get there to combat it, it is not only a quarter-acre but it has already exploded."

Due to winds that can gust up to 35 mph (56 km/h) at times, the National Weather Service has issued a fire watch in the area through Thursday.

Since July 13, the Dixie Fire has burned more than 900 miles (2,331 km) in the northern Sierra Nevadas and southern Cascades. It eventually joined with the Fly Fire to create a smaller fire.

Ongoing damage assessments have revealed that more than 1,100 buildings were destroyed, including 625 houses, and that more than 14,000 structures remain in danger. Numerous evacuation orders were in place.

Although Westwood, a small lumber town, is still under evacuation orders, protective lines are holding but the fire remained a danger.

Janssen stated that there are still people who remain in the area. "We hope it doesn't turn into bad in there, and we have to shift our mission from protecting structures towards saving lives... Our greatest concern right now is that people don't take the evacuation seriously."

While investigations are ongoing, Pacific Gas & Electric has notified regulators that the Fly and Dixie fires could have been caused due to trees falling into its powerlines. The Dixie Fire began near the town of Paradise, which was devastated by a 2018 wildfire ignited by PG&E equipment during strong winds. Eighty-five people died.

PG&E notified 48,000 Northern California customers on Monday evening that power might be shut down Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon in order to stop winds from blowing debris or falling into power lines, and igniting new wildfires.

The utility released a statement saying that PG&E meteorologists were monitoring a weather system in these areas, which could produce sustained winds of up 40 mph (64 kph), gusting higher at foothills or mountains.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the Dixie Fire was one of 97 active wildfires in the United States that were burning on Monday. The blazes were attended by more than 25,000 firefighters, support staff and management teams.

California was also dealing with other large fires. One of these was the one that began on Saturday, southeast of El Dorado County's Dixie Fire. It had grown to approximately 3.5 miles (9 km) in area and forced evacuations.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service stated that it is in crisis mode with more than twice the number of firefighters being deployed than a year ago.

Fires also took a toll upon wildlife.

Near Taylorsville, California, some firefighters on Sunday were monitoring a bear cub who was possibly orphaned in the Dixie Fire. A wildlife rescue team was waiting to extract the cub from the area that had been burned.

Johnnie Macy, a Golden, Colorado firefighter, said that if they see them with a sow, or a mother bear, they will stay with the mother bear and then run away." "This bear has not done that so we believe that the bear is orphaned because of the fire."

According to scientists, climate change has made the U.S. West more dry and warmer over the past 30 years. It will also continue to make the weather extremer and more destructive.

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