Vicious winds to test crews battling California wildfire

Vicious winds to test crews battling California wildfire

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Firefighters in California will be tested by vicious winds on Friday morning as they battle a huge wildfire that has claimed the life of one of their colleagues and torched more than 700 homes.

Cory Iverson, 32, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection engineer, was killed on Thursday while tackling the so-called Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

“Cory Iverson … made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of others,” said Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean during a community meeting on Thursday night.

Fire officials released little information about the circumstances surrounding Iverson’s death. The Los Angeles Daily News reported that he perished in an accident near the community of Fillmore, where a mayday alert was sounded.

Santa Ana winds and humidity in the single digits has helped stoke the blaze that has swept through dry vegetation since it erupted on Dec. 4 near a small private college in Ojai. It has since blackened more than 249,000 acres (about 390 square miles, or 1,000 sq km) and is now the fourth-largest wildfire on record in California since 1932.

On Friday morning powerful winds are forecast which will subside during the day, the National Weather Service said.

“Winds will weaken Friday, turn westerly early Saturday, then become offshore and gusty again late Saturday night through Sunday evening,” the service said in an advisory.

The wildfire remained a threat to some 18,000 homes and other structures in the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito along California’s coastline, especially if hot, dry Santa Ana winds return.

The Thomas Fire, which was 35 percent contained as of Thursday evening, has burned 729 homes to the ground and damaged another 175. The blaze has displaced more than 94,000 people.

The fire and others to the south in San Diego and Los Angeles counties have disrupted life for millions of people over the last 11 days.

They have caused schools to close for days, shut roads and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes and into shelters. The fires are also responsible for poor air quality throughout Southern California, forcing some commuters to wear protective face masks, local media reported.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Andrew Roche)

After fires, Southern California faces risk of mudslides

After fires, Southern California faces risk of mudslides

By Ben Gruber and Alex Dobuzinskis

CARPINTERIA, Calif./LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Firefighters in Southern California are slowly gaining control of one of the largest wildfires in state history, but residents may not enjoy much relief as experts said the flames are laying the groundwork for the next disaster – mudslides.

The intense fire is burning away vegetation that holds the soil in place and baking a waxy layer into the earth that prevents the water from sinking more than a few inches into the ground, experts said.

With one heavy rain, the soil above this waterproof layer can become saturated, start to slide in hilly areas and transform into something catastrophic.

“Pretty much anywhere there’s a fire on a steep slope, there’s cause for concern,” Jason Kean, research hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, said in a telephone interview.

And the Thomas Fire, which has burned 234,000 acres and destroyed nearly 700 homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, is definitely in landslide country.

“If we get hard rain, there are going to be terrible landslides in the burn areas,” Carla D’Antonio, chairman of University of California, Santa Barbara’s environmental studies program, said in an email.

“It doesn’t take a lot of rain to get the soil and rock moving, so to have burned soil on top of this and no significant plant cover creates huge potential for landslides,” she added.

Among the cities at risk is Santa Barbara, with 92,000 people, as well as the smaller communities of Carpinteria, Ojai and Summerland.

“It’s terrifying,” Jamey Geston, 19, of Carpinteria, said of possible mudslides. “I am just taking it one natural disaster at a time at this point and try to get through it.”

Once the fire is out, more work will begin as officials will likely need to rush to build retention basins and other structures to prevent debris flows before the rainy season begins, said Professor Nicholas Pinter of University of California, Davis’ Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

“This is exactly the thing we worry about in the winter following an event like the Thomas Fire,” he said by telephone.

Another large concern is the potential damage to water quality, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said in a telephone interview.

Heavy rainfall could bring lots of silt to waterways like Lake Cachuma, where barriers are already being erected, as well as unwanted matter, she said. In 2007, after the massive Zaca Fire, Santa Barbara spent more than $1 million on extra cleaning and filtration systems.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state could defray some costs with grants, but the best outcome would be “a nice, calm, intermittent rain,” Schneider said.

“We don’t see any rain in the immediate forecast, which is a curse and a blessing,” she said. “We could use the water to fight the fire, but we don’t want some kind of big downpour that would cause significant mudslides so soon after the area’s been burnt to nothing.”

(Reporting by Ben Gruber and Alex Dobuzinskis, Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Firefighters look to gain on California wildfire as winds persist

Firefighters look to gain on California wildfire as winds persist

By Ben Gruber

VENTURA, Calif. (Reuters) – Firefighters on Tuesday hoped to take further control of a massive California wildfire, the fifth largest in the state’s history, as relentless wind gusts and bone-dry weather were expected to persist.

The blaze, known as the Thomas Fire, which has burned 231,700 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties about 100 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, grew but at a slower pace, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

Strong wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour (65 km per hour) and extremely low humidity expected through Thursday will pose a challenge to firefighters, the National Weather Service said. (Graphics on ‘Southern California wildfires’ – http://tmsnrt.rs/2jCVLeu)

“That combination of winds and very low relative humidity leads to critical fire conditions and can allow for a potential of significant fire growth and fire behavior,” National Weather Service incident meteorologist Rich Thompson said late Monday at a community meeting about the fire.

About 7,000 firefighters were battling the Thomas Fire, which has destroyed nearly 800 structures including more than 680 homes, Cal Fire said. By Monday night the blaze was at least 20 percent contained.

Dry vegetation that has not burned in 50 years has acted as fuel for the fire in the mountains southeast of Santa Barbara and northwest of Ventura counties, spokesman Ian McDonald said.

“Because the slopes are so steep and the terrain is so rocky, it is actually quite dangerous,” he said. “We are not going to put firefighters in harm’s way halfway up a steep rocky slope. We are going to wait for the fire to come to us and extinguish it where it is safe.”

Public schools in Santa Barbara and school districts nearby have canceled classes this week and will not reopen until the annual winter break is completed in January, said Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider.

Some of the other fires burning over the past week in San Diego and Los Angeles counties have been largely brought under control by the thousands of firefighters on the ground.

The Creek and Rye fires in Los Angeles County were both at least 90 percent contained, officials said, while the Skirball Fire in the exclusive Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles was 85 percent contained.

North of San Diego, the 4,100-acre (1,660 hectare) Lilac Fire was 90 percent contained on Monday after destroying 151 structures.

(Additonal reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Opioid abuse crisis takes heavy toll on U.S. veterans

Needles used for shooting heroin and other opioids along with other paraphernalia litter the ground in a park in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. October 26, 2017.

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Opioid drug abuse has killed more Americans than the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, and U.S. veterans and advocates this Veteran’s Day are focusing on how to help victims of the crisis.

Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of the highly addictive painkillers, a rate that reflects high levels of chronic pain among vets, particularly those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to federal data.

U.S. government and healthcare officials have been struggling to stem the epidemic of overdoses, which killed more than 64,000 Americans in the 12 months ending last January alone, a 21 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 65,000 Americans died in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump named opioids a national public health emergency and a White House commission last week recommended establishing a nationwide system of drug courts and easier access to alternatives to opioids for people in pain.

“Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises,” said former Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a recovering addict and a member of the president’s opioid commission.

Kennedy said in an e-mail that more funding was needed for treatment facilities and medical professionals to help tackle the problem.

One effort to address the issue has stalled in Congress – the proposed Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, sponsored by Senator John McCain. That measure is aimed at researching ways to help Veterans Administration doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain.

“The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” McCain, one of the nation’s most visible veterans, said in an e-mail on Thursday. He noted that 20 veterans take their lives each day, a suicide rate 21 percent higher than for other U.S. adults.

The VA system has stepped up its efforts to address the crisis, having treated some 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, said Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Curtis Cashour.

The department’s Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has also begun testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency on the drugs, the VA said.

A delay in naming a Trump administration “drug czar” to head the effort, however, has fueled doubts about immediate action on the opioid crisis. Last month the White House nominee, Representative Tom Marino, withdrew from consideration following a report he spearheaded a bill that hurt the government’s ability to crack down on opioid makers.

 

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Dan Grebler)

 

Trump to issue emergency declaration next week on opioids

Trump to issue emergency declaration next week on opioids

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would declare next week a national emergency on opioid abuse, a move that could give states access to federal funds to fight the drug crisis.

The United States is battling a surge in opioid-related deaths, including 33,000 lives lost in 2015, more than any year on record, according to federal data.

“The opioid is a tremendous emergency,” Trump told Fox Business Network. “Next week, I’m going to (be) declaring an emergency, (a) national emergency on drugs.”

Trump is expected to provide a preview of his plans for tackling drug demand and the opioid crisis in remarks on Thursday.

Trump said in August that he would declare opioid abuse a national emergency.

Opioids, primarily prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl – a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine – are fueling the drug overdoses.

The declaration by Trump could help unlock more support and resources to address the drug overdose epidemic, such as additional funding and expanded access to various forms of treatment, and it gives the government more flexibility in waiving rules and restrictions to expedite action.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Peter Cooney)

At least 23 dead, hundreds missing, as winds fan California fires

At least 23 dead, hundreds missing, as winds fan California fires

By Alexandria Sage

SONOMA, Calif. (Reuters) – Firefighters struggled overnight to halt the spread of wildfires known to have killed 23 people in North California, preparing for winds to shift after one town threatened by flames evacuated all residents.

The edge of the deadly Tubbs fire was less than two miles (3km) from Calistoga, a Napa Valley community whose 5,000 residents left their homes on Wednesday.

Whether the town burns “is going to depend on the wind,” its Fire Chief Steve Campbell told Reuters early on Thursday. “High winds are predicted, but we have not received them yet.”

Tubbs is one of nearly two dozen fires spanning eight counties that, raging largely unchecked since igniting on Sunday, have left hundreds of residents unaccounted for.

They have also charred around 170,000 acres (69,000 hectares) of land and destroyed some 3,500 buildings since.

While their cause has not been conclusively determined, they are thought to have been sparked by power lines toppled by gale force winds, and fanned by hot, dry “Diablo” winds that blew into northern California toward the Pacific.

New advisory evacuations were also issued in Sonoma County late on Wednesday for parts of Santa Rosa, the largest city in the state’s world-renowned wine country, and Gesyerville, an unincorporated town of 800 people.

“The winds are predicted to be very erratic,” said country spokesman Barry Dugan. “There will be burst of high gusts that can be … very unpredictable and difficult when you are fighting a fire and also for residents who we are trying to keep posted.”

Wildfires have damaged or demolished at least 13 Napa Valley wineries, a vintners’ trade group said on Tuesday.

Around 25,000 people remained under evacuation on Wednesday as the fires belched smoke that drifted south over the San Francisco Bay area, where some residents donned face masks.

A burning structure is seen at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country during the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa.

A burning structure is seen at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country during the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa.
REUTERS/Stephen Lam

STILL MISSING

More than 285 people were still missing in Sonoma County late on Wednesday night, the sheriff said on Twitter. It was unclear how many might be fire victims rather than evacuees who not checked in with authorities.

In Santa Rosa, blocks in some neighborhoods resembled war zones, with little left but charred debris, broken walls, chimneys and the steel frames of burned-out cars.

The 23 recorded deaths make the fires the deadliest in the state since 1991, with Tubbs, which has accounted for 13 fatalities, the worst single blaze since 2003, according to state data.

In addition to high winds, the fires have been stoked by an abundance of thick brush left tinder dry by a summer of hot, dry weather.

Matt Nauman, spokesman for the region’s main utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, said many power lines had fallen during gales that packed gusts in excess of 75 miles (120km) per hour.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in several northern counties, as well as in Orange County in Southern California, where a fire in Anaheim destroyed 15 structures and damaged 12.

Smoke rises from a playground in front of Dunbar Elementary School during the Nuns Fire in Sonoma.

Smoke rises from a playground in front of Dunbar Elementary School during the Nuns Fire in Sonoma.
REUTERS/Stephen Lam

(Additional reporting by Stephen Lam, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Jonathan Allen in New York, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; editing by John Stonestreet)

Strong 7.1 quake hits Mexico, people trapped in collapsed buildings

Damages are seen after an earthquake hit in Mexico City, Mexico September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing buildings and trapping an unknown number of people.

TV images showed a multi-story building in the capital with a middle floor collapsed as sirens blared from first responders rushing to the scene. Other video showed the side of a government building sheering off and falling into the street as bystanders screamed.

In Cuernavaca, a city south of Mexico City, there were unconfirmed reports on local radio of people trapped beneath collapsed buildings.

The quake came just over a week after another major quake shook the country. A civil protection official told local TV that an unspecified number of people were trapped inside various buildings that caught fire in Mexico City.

Mexican TV and social media showed cars crushed by debris. Many people fled into the streets, and electricity and phone lines were down in parts of the capital.

“We got out really fast, leaving everything as it was and just left,” said Rosaura Suarez, as she stood with a crowd on the street.

Tuesday’s epicenter was located 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Atencingo in the central state of Puebla at a depth of 32 miles (51 km), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake hit only hours after many people participated in earthquake drills around the nation on the anniversary of the devastating quake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985.

Many people were also still shaken from the recent quake on Sept. 7, a powerful 8.1 temblor that killed at least 98 people.

President Enrique Pena was on a flight to Oaxaca, one of the hardest hit areas by that quake, and said via his Twitter account that he was immediately returning to attend to the quake in Mexico City.

Damages are seen after an earthquake hit in Mexico City, Mexico September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

Damages are seen after an earthquake hit in Mexico City, Mexico September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

(Reporting by Mexico City newsroom; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Stranded Texans turn to social media for help as flood waters rise

Women are illuminated by the light of a smart phone as they seek refuge in the Good Samaritan Rescue Mission in Corpus Christi.

By Peter Szekely

(Reuters) – Flood-stranded Texans in the Houston area took to social media on Sunday with desperate pleas to be rescued from their homes as Tropical Storm Harvey and its torrential rains slowly lumbered across the region.

With authorities urging Houston’s more than 2 million residents to stay in their homes rather than risk venturing outside, some 70,000 of them formed a Facebook group that many of them used to call for help.

“Rescue needed!!” Lorena Martinez posted on the group, known “Hurricane Harvey 2017 – Together We Will Make It; TOGETHER WE WILL REBUILD.”

Martinez said 20 people, including six children, an elderly person and a pregnant woman, were stranded in a house on Houston’s Roper Street.

“Tried emergency service but not responding,” she said. “They’re in the attic with ax on hand if necessary.”

Many Houston residents reported being holed up in their attics, some with axes to chop their way out if necessary, even though emergency services advised people to climb onto the roofs to escape rising waters.

“Anyone in the area that can help… 4 adults 4 kids stuck in the attic.. no tools to break/cut into the roof,” said Carolyn Withrow Hutchins, who also posted a map with the location.

Emergency crews had rescued more than 1,000 stranded people from cars and homes in the Houston area by early Sunday.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the state was adding helicopters to those operated by officials in Houston and Harris County to help rescue stranded residents.

“Before today, the state had already made multiple water rescues from helicopters from dropped lines, and we are prepared to continue that process,” Abbott said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

Many residents posted that they were unable to reach emergency services by phone or were told that their rescues would take several hours.

Kathaleen Hervey was among many who turned to Twitter for help, saying a resident she knew needed to be rescued.

“He is trapped and can’t get through 911 or any of the emergency numbers, send a boat!!!” she tweeted to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Turner said emergency responders were giving their highest priority to the most flood-ravaged areas.

“911 is working,” Turner tweeted. “Every need is important. Please give preference to life-threatening situations.”

 

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

 

White House says Trump condemns Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis

People gather for a vigil in response to the death of a counter-demonstrator at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, outside the White House in Washington,

By Ian Simpson

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s remarks condemning violence at a white nationalist rally were meant to include the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups, the White House said on Sunday, a day after he was criticized across the political spectrum for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists.

U.S. authorities opened an investigation into the deadly violence in Virginia, which put renewed pressure on the Trump administration to take an unequivocal stand against right-wing extremists occupying a loyal segment of the Republican president’s political base.

A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 people were injured, five critically, on Saturday when a man plowed a car into a crowd of people protesting the white nationalist rally in the Southern college town of Charlottesville. Another 15 people were injured in bloody street brawls between white nationalists and counter-demonstrators who fought each other with fists, rocks and pepper spray.

Two Virginia state police officers died in the crash of their helicopter after assisting in efforts to quell the unrest, which Mayor Mike Signer said was met by the presence of nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers.

Former U.S. Army enlistee James Alex Fields Jr., 20, a white Ohio man described by a former high school teacher as having been “infatuated” with Nazi ideology as a teenager, was due to be appear in court on murder and other charges stemming from the deadly car crash.

The federal “hate crime” investigation of the incident “is not limited to the driver,” a U.S. Justice Department official told Reuters. “We will investigate whether others may have been involved in planning the attack.”

Democrats and Republicans criticized Trump for waiting too long to address the violence – his first major crisis on the domestic front that he has faced as president – and for failing when he did speak out to explicitly condemn white-supremacist marchers who ignited the melee.

Trump on Saturday initially denounced what he called “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

On Sunday, however, the White House added: “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

The statement was emailed to reporters covering Trump at his golf resort in New Jersey and attributed to an unidentified “White House spokesperson.”

 

SOLIDARITY WITH CHARLOTTESVILLE

Memorial vigils and other events showing solidarity with Charlottesville’s victims were planned across the country on Sunday to “honor all those under attack by congregating against hate,” a loose coalition of civil society groups said in postings on social media.

Virginia police have not yet provided a motive for the man accused of ramming his car into the crowd. But U.S. prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have opened a civil rights investigation, FBI and Justice Department officials said.

Derek Weimer, a history teacher at Fields’ high school, told Cincinnati television station WCPO-TV that he remembered Fields harboring “some very radical views on race” as a student and was “very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler.”

“I developed a good rapport with him and I used that rapport to constantly try to steer him away from those beliefs,” Weimer recounted, adding that he recalled Fields being “gung-ho” about joining the Army when he graduated.

The Army confirmed that Fields reported for basic military training in August 2015 but was “released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015.” The Army statement did not explain in what way he failed to measure up.

Fields is being held on suspicion of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and a single count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, authorities said.

Two people stop to comfort Joseph Culver (C) of Charlottesville as he kneels at a late night vigil to pay his respect for a friend injured in a car attack on counter protesters after the "Unite the Right" rally organized by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Two people stop to comfort Joseph Culver (C) of Charlottesville as he kneels at a late night vigil to pay his respect for a friend injured in a car attack on counter protesters after the “Unite the Right” rally organized by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

REPUBLICAN SENATORS CRITICIZE RESPONSE

On Sunday before the White House statement, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who chairs the Republican Party’s Senate election effort, urged the president to condemn “white supremacists” and to use that term. He was one of several Republican senators who squarely criticized Trump on Twitter on Saturday.

“Calling out people for their acts of evil – let’s do it today – white nationalist, white supremacist,” Gardner said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday. “We will not stand for their hate.”

Sunday’s White House statement elaborating on Trump’s initial comment on the Charlottesville clashes was followed hours later by even tougher rhetoric against white nationalists from Vice President Mike Pence, on a visit to Colombia.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo Nazis or the KKK,” Pence said. “These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

Mayor Signer, a Democrat, blamed Trump for helping foment an atmosphere conducive to violence, starting with rhetoric as a candidate for president in 2016.

“Look at the campaign he ran, Signer said on CNN’s State of the Nation.” “There are two words that need to be said over and over again – domestic terrorism and white supremacy. That is exactly what we saw on display this weekend.”

Jason Kessler, an organizer of Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally, which was staged to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate army commander General Robert E. Lee from a park, said supporters of the event would not back down. The rally stemmed from a long debate over various public memorials and symbols honoring the pro-slavery Confederacy of the U.S. Civil War, considered an affront by African-Americans.

Kessler attempted to hold a press conference outside city hall in Charlottesville on Sunday but was quickly shouted down by counter-protesters.

 

(Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani and Mike Stone in Washington, James Oliphant in New Jersey, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Julia Cobb in Bogota; Writing by Grant McCool and Steve Gorman; Editing by Andrew Hay and Mary Milliken)

 

Hot, dry conditions may stoke wildfires in U.S. West, forecasters warn

A hand drawn sign shows thanks to fire fighters heading out to tackle the Whittier fire near Santa Barbara, California, U.S. July 13, 2017. Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Crews battling dozens of wildfires across parts of the parched U.S. West will face tinderbox conditions that could stoke more blazes on Friday and through the weekend, forecasters said.

Red flag warnings were issued for northern California, southern Oregon, northeastern Utah and northern Montana. Forecasters expect temperatures to reach above 90 degrees Fahrenheit 32 degrees Celsius) and winds to gust 50 miles (80 km) per hour in parts of the region, the National Weather Service said in advisories.

“Very dry and unstable conditions will support extreme fire behavior and rapid rates of spread,” the service said.

On Thursday evening, crews were battling 43 large fires that were out of control across the U.S. West, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

The hot, dry forecast comes after firefighters made gains in California on several blazes, including the so-called Wall Fire, which had damaged or destroyed 44 homes in Butte County and more than 60 other structures.

Evacuation orders have been lifted for about 4,000 people as firefighters have cut containment lines around 85 percent of the blaze, according to the Cal Fire website.

Flames have charred more than twice as much land mass in California so far in 2017 than a year earlier, according to a Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)