New Mexico blast involving fireworks injures several firefighters

Smoke from an explosion is seen in Roswell, New Mexico, U.S., June 5, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. Roswell Today/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Several firefighters were injured on Wednesday, two seriously, in an explosion at a building in Roswell, New Mexico, where fireworks were being stored for the city’s annual July Fourth celebrations, police and city officials said.

The blast occurred shortly after noon at a building on the grounds of the Roswell International Air Center, a commercial airport on the southern outskirts of the town, said Todd Wildermuth, a spokesman for the city.

He said about a dozen firefighters were in and around the building “doing some preparation work” for the city’s upcoming July Fourth Independence Day fireworks display when the explosion occurred.

He said two firefighters suffered serious injuries and were taken to local hospitals. A number of others who sustained minor injuries were treated on the scene.

The cause of the blast was under investigation, he said. The fireworks storage building, at the far west end of the airport property, is far enough away from the airport itself that flight operations were not affected, Wildermuth said.

Roswell, a city of about 48,000 residents in southeastern New Mexico about 200 miles southeast of the state capital, Albuquerque, is perhaps best known for the reported crash of an unidentified flying object in 1947 near what was then known as the Roswell Army Air Field.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio and James Dalgleish)

Wyoming wildfire forces evacuations, closes highway south of Jackson

Smoke rises from a wildfire as seen from Bondurant, Wyoming, United States in this September 22, 2018 photo by Jared Kail. Jared Kail/Social Media/via REUTERS

By Laura Zuckerman

PINEDALE, Wyo. (Reuters) – A wind-blown wildfire that has forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes south of the resort town of Jackson, Wyoming, prompted officials on Sunday to close 50 miles of a key highway traveled by tourists to reach Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

The Roosevelt fire has scorched nearly 40,000 acres of drought-parched landscape and destroyed at least four structures, including two dwellings, since erupting Sept. 15 in the Bridger-Teton National Forest about 30 miles south of Jackson.

Smoke rises from a wildfire as seen from Bondurant, Wyoming, United States in this September 22, 2018 photo by Bryce Harvey. Bryce Harvey/Social Media/via REUTERS

Smoke rises from a wildfire as seen from Bondurant, Wyoming, United States in this September 22, 2018 photo by Bryce Harvey. Bryce Harvey/Social Media/via REUTERS

Hundreds of firefighters battled across steep, forested terrain and bone-dry sagebrush flats to push back flames driven by winds gusting to 50 miles per hour. By Sunday, crews had managed to carve containment lines around nearly a quarter of the fire’s perimeter.

But worsening conditions later prompted the Sublette County sheriff to expand evacuations in rural subdivisions in and around the town of Bondurant, bringing the number of homes affected to about 300. Scores of additional residences were placed on standby for evacuation at a moments notice, according to sheriff’s Sergeant Travis Bingham.

He said the blaze was stoked by thick vegetation left desiccated by prolonged drought.

“We haven’t had moisture for weeks, and the winds today were going from 35 to 50 miles per hour. The fire picked it up and ran with it,” he said Sunday.

The 50-mile segment of U.S. Highway 189/191 closed by state transportation officials runs from just northwest of the oil-and-gas town of Pinedale to the southern outskirts of Jackson.

The road is the main traffic route to Grand Teton and Yellowstone for travelers approaching the two premier national parks from points south, though neither Jackson nor the parks were expected to be threatened by the blaze.

The cause of the Roosevelt fire was under investigation. It comes at the height of the region’s hunting season and is one of three that have erupted since mid-September in the Bridger-Teton Forest in western Wyoming.

Wildfires have charred more than 7 million acres across the Western United States so far this year.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Pinedale, Wyo; Editing by Steve Gorman and Michael Perry)

Crews fight to outflank raging Northern California wildfire

Smoke rises as the large fire spread along Pope Valley in California, U.S., September 8, 2018 in this picture obtained on September 8, 2018 from social media. Craig Philpott/via REUTERS

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Firefighters battled on Saturday to outflank a wildfire that has forced the closure of an interstate highway in Northern California as the blaze swept through explosively dry mountain timber in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest for a fourth day.

As of late Saturday, the Delta Fire had scorched more than 40,500 acres (16,839 hectares) in the Cascade range since erupting on Wednesday in a forest canyon along the Sacramento River, about 250 miles (402 km) north of San Francisco, fire officials said.

No serious injuries or deaths have been reported, but the blaze has caused major travel disruptions. On Wednesday, flames raced across Interstate 5, chasing a number of truckers from their vehicles before flames engulfed their abandoned rigs.

A 45-mile (72-km) stretch of the I-5, a key north-south route through the entire state, has remained closed since then, requiring traffic detours of up to 120 miles (193 km).

Although containment of the blaze, a measure of the progress made in carving buffers around the fire’s perimeter to halt its spread, remained at zero, crews have made gains clearing away tinder-dry brush beyond its leading edge.

Firefighters were using natural barriers like roadways and ridges to set up control lines, which will allow them to burn away fuel ahead of the wildfire to slow its growth, Captain Brandon Vaccaro, a spokesman for the Delta fire incident command, said.

Smoke rises as the large fire spread along Pope Valley in California, U.S., September 8, 2018 in this picture obtained on September 8, 2018 from social media. Craig Philpott/via REUTERS

Smoke rises as the large fire spread along Pope Valley in California, U.S., September 8, 2018 in this picture obtained on September 8, 2018 from social media. Craig Philpott/via REUTERS

“The topography here is very steep, with a lot of canyons and valleys that make it very difficult for firefighters to work,” he said.

Much of the effort has also focused on protecting scattered homes and small communities in the sparsely populated fire zone. Two single-family homes have been destroyed, and two other buildings damaged, Vaccaro said.

Approximately 150 people were under mandatory evacuation orders in Shasta and Trinity counties, Vaccaro said. Farther north, an evacuation warning was in effect for the town of Dunsmuir, advising some 1,600 residents to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity arrived overnight on Friday, providing a bit of a respite from the scorching weather that has hampered firefighting this week.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park Maryland said temperatures are expected to slowly drop from a high of 96 degrees Fahrenheit (35.6°C) Sunday to a high of 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28.3°C) by Tuesday.

Shasta County communities are still recovering from a devastating blaze this summer that killed eight people and incinerated hundreds of dwellings in and around Redding.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Alexander Smith and Diane Craft)

Brazil mourns blaze at National Museum, seeks answers to ‘tragedy foretold’

A fire burns at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 2, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

By Gabriel Stargardter

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil on Monday mourned a fire that destroyed its National Museum, a cherished historical repository that lacked a sprinkler system and was reeling from years of financial neglect, making its destruction a “tragedy foretold.”

The one-time Imperial Palace’s pastel-yellow facade remained standing on Monday morning but a peek inside its giant windows revealed a roofless interior of blackened hallways and charred, smoldering beams. Every so often, firemen emerged with a pot or a painting they had managed to rescue.

Authorities said the cause of Sunday evening’s blaze was not yet known.

Researchers, students and others who worked in the museum, where 20 million archives were likely destroyed, huddled in small groups outside the ruined building, consoling one another and wiping away tears.

The fire has stirred emotions in Brazil, whose angry electorate is reeling from a frail economy, widespread graft and rising violence ahead of an unpredictable presidential election in October.

Luiz Duarte, vice director of the museum, told Globo TV the institution had been neglected by successive federal governments, and that a 21.6 million real ($5.23 million) financing plan announced in June included, ironically, a plan to install modern fire protection equipment.

Roberto Robadey, commander of the Rio fire department, told reporters on Monday the two hydrants outside the building were dry. That forced firefighters to use water from a nearby lake and rely on water trucks. But the building burned far too fast for any of that to help.

“In an ideal world, we would have many things that we don’t have here: sprinklers inside the building,” he said, adding that the fire department would investigate its response and take action if needed. “Yesterday was one of the saddest days of my career.”

Renato Rodriguez Cabral, a teacher in the geology and paleontology department, said the museum’s decline did not happen overnight.

“This was a tragedy foretold,” Cabral said as he hugged students and coworkers. “Successive governments would not provide funds, they would not invest in infrastructure.”

Cabral said the building received new wiring about 15 years ago, but that clearly there was not a sufficient plan to protect the museum from fire, adding: “The firefighters basically could only watch the blaze.”

“For Brazilian history and science, this is a complete tragedy,” he added. “There is no way to recover what was lost.”

The National Museum’s collection ranged from archeological finds to historical memorabilia.

The museum, which is tied to the Rio de Janeiro federal university and the education ministry, was founded in 1818. It housed several landmark collections, including Egyptian artifacts and the oldest human fossil found in Brazil.

The destruction of the building, where emperors once lived, was an “incalculable loss for Brazil,” President Michel Temer said in a statement.

“Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge were lost.”

His office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on widespread allegations of neglect.

($1 = 4.1310 reais)

(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Brad Brooks and James Dalgleish)

Hundreds evacuated as forest fire sends smoke over Berlin

Firefighters help to put out a forest fire near Treuenbrietzen, Germany August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

TREUENBRIETZEN, Germany (Reuters) – Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes as around 600 firefighters battled a blaze in a forest strewn with unexploded ammunition south of Berlin on Friday and a pall of acrid smoke hung over the city.

Attempts to fight the fire were complicated by the presence of the ammunition thought to date from the Soviet Army’s activities in former East Germany.

The blaze, about 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Berlin, spread rapidly overnight to cover an area the size of 500 football fields, aided by the parched conditions after one of Europe’s hottest summers in living memory.

“I have huge respect for the firefighters who are out there right now, risking their lives. We know there is ammunition lying around in the forest,” said local politician Guenther Baaske, adding that some explosions had been heard.

The summer has seen forest fires across much of eastern Germany, but this blaze, so close to its largest city, led authorities to activate emergency alert systems in the early hours of Friday telling Berliners to shut their windows.

Firefighters help to put out a forest fire near Treuenbrietzen, Germany August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Firefighters help to put out a forest fire near Treuenbrietzen, Germany August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Helicopters dropped water on flames near the village of Treuenbrietzen and a Reuters photographer saw firefighters spraying water in a blackened landscape thick with smoke.

Flames came within 100 meters of houses in some places. Authorities said 540 people had to leave their homes, with many forced into emergency accommodation.

In many places flames reached as high as the forest canopy in the ordinarily swampy, heavily-wooded region that surrounds Berlin.

(Reporting by Hannibal Hanschke and Reuters TV; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Lightning storms mass over California, Oregon as wildfires blaze

FILE PHOTO: Firefighter fight fire near torching trees as wildfire burns near Yosemite National Park in this US Forest Service photo released on social media from California, U.S., August 6, 2018. Courtesy USFS/Yosemite National Park/Handout via REUTERS

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Storm clouds gathered over southern Oregon and northern California early on Wednesday, threatening to spark more wildfires with lightning strikes as emergency crews battled several deadly blazes, forecasters said.

The clouds carried little rain and offered little chance of a break from the bone-dry conditions plaguing the region, the National Weather Service said.

“Initial attack resources could be overwhelmed,” it added in a red flag announcement.

Elsewhere, crews made slow but steady progress against wildfires including one, called the Mendocino Complex, which has become largest in California’s history and killed one firefighter from Utah on Monday.

Emergency crews had managed to set up containment lines around almost two thirds the fire which has raged through the southern end of the Mendocino National Forest, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

That fire has scorched 355,000 acres (144,000 hectares) and destroyed 265 structures, it added.

To the northeast, firefighters have been able to carve containment lines around 65 percent of the Carr Fire, which has killed three firefighters, four civilians and a utility worker and burned more than 1,500 structures. The Carr Fire has blackened 211,000 acres, Cal Fire said.

The heart of Yosemite National Park in California was reopened to the public on Tuesday after it was shut down for nearly three weeks due to the Ferguson Fire, which has caused two deaths. But smoke lingered in the air and a key route to the park’s best-known landmarks remained closed.

The 100,000-acre fire, which is about 150 miles (240 km) east of San Francisco, was 86 percent contained after igniting a month ago, authorities said.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Aggressive wildfire threatens thousands of homes in southern California city

The Holy Fire spreads in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Lake Elsinore City Hall/via REUTERS

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Hundreds of firefighters were building barriers and constructing containment lines early on Friday to slow an approaching wildfire threatening to torch thousands of homes in a lakeside community southeast of Los Angeles.

A plane dumps fire retardant over the Holy Fire as it spreads in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Lake Elsinore City Hall/via REUTERS

A plane dumps fire retardant over the Holy Fire as it spreads in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Lake Elsinore City Hall/via REUTERS

More than 21,000 people have been evacuated in and around Lake Elsinore where furious flames and billowing smoke rose into the sky at the edge of the city of 60,000 as the blaze, dubbed the Holy Fire, burned nearby in the Santa Ana Mountains.

“It feels like a war zone,” Ana Tran told the Los Angeles Times as ash and flame retardant fell on her neighborhood.

The fire, which was five percent contained, was being fueled by dry brush covering steep terrain and stoked by erratic wind gusts during the night, said Thanh Nguyen, a spokesman for the incident said.

“Strong downdrafts is making the fire move aggressively downhill,” said Nguyen, noting that firefighters were working to build barriers and containment lines to protect more than 2,000 homes at risk from the fire.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the relatively small blaze that consumed more than 10,200 acres (4,128 hectares) since it began on Tuesday, fire officials said.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the area on Thursday, freeing up additional resources to battle the blaze. Forrest Clark, 51, was charged with setting the fire, the Orange County District Attorney Office said.

A plane flies off after dumping fire retardant over the Holy Fire close to a residential area in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Camille Collins/via REUTERS

A plane flies off after dumping fire retardant over the Holy Fire close to a residential area in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Camille Collins/via REUTERS

The Holy Fire was one of several fires burning in California that have displaced tens of thousands of people. Wildfires across the state and region could be further stoked by strong gusts, low humidity, and hot weather on Friday and Saturday, forecasters warned.

In Northern California, a mechanic helping to fight the Carr Fire burning around Redding was killed in a traffic collision on Thursday, bringing the death toll from that blaze to eight, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said. The 178,000-acre Carr Fire has killed two other firefighters along with three members of one family and has destroyed nearly 1,100 homes. It was 49 percent contained with firefighters struggling in steep terrain to control the blaze, CalFire said.

More than 4,000 firefighters are battling the Mendocino Complex Fire, which has burned 305,200 acres in three counties north of San Francisco, CalFire said.

Two firefighters were injured and 119 homes destroyed by that fire which now ranks as the largest fire on record in the state.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Editing by William Maclean)

Crews gain on California wildfire as milder temperatures prevail

FILE PHOTO: A satellite image shows the River fire at the Mendocino Complex wildfire in California, U.S., August 6, 2018. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company/Handout via REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Crews battling the largest wildfire in California history took advantage of milder overnight temperatures to gain considerable ground in containing the blaze on Wednesday, a day after officials it would take until September to snuff it out.

The Mendocino Complex fire, which has scorched an area of northern California almost the size of Los Angeles, was 47 percent contained on Wednesday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said. A day earlier, the fire was 34 percent contained.

So far, two firefighters have been injured fighting the blaze, which has consumed more than 300,000 acres. While sprawling, the wildfire was less destructive than last week’s Carr Fire near Redding, destroying 75 homes and forcing the evacuation of more than 23,000 people. The Carr Fire destroyed more than 1,000 structures.

Overnight temperatures for Wednesday and Thursday should drop to a low of 64 degrees (18 Celsius) but highs were forecast to hit 98 degrees (36 Celsius) on Wednesday and 99 (37 Celsius) on Thursday, said National Weather Service meteorology intern Jennifer Guenehner.

Some 4,000 firefighters were working on Wednesday to stop the fire from reaching communities at the southern tip of the Mendocino National Forest, about 100 miles north of San Francisco. The blaze is still threatening more than 10,000 structures, Cal Fire said.

The Mendocino Complex is one of 17 major fires burning in California that have destroyed more than 1,500 structures and displaced tens of thousands of people over the past month.

Cal Fire on Tuesday pushed back the date when it expected to bring the Mendocino fire under full control to Sept. 1, the fourth time the department has revised its timetable as the massive wildfire expanded.

The fire became the largest in California history on Monday, after officials began battling two separate blazes in the Mendocino area as a single event, according to Cal Fire.

Now, having scorched more than 300,000 acres, the blaze has surpassed the Thomas Fire, which burned 281,893 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in southern California last December, destroying more than 1,000 structures.

 

Climate change is widely blamed for the higher temperatures that have fueled wildfires in California, and further afield like in Portugal, Sweden, and Siberia.

The California fires are on track to be the most destructive in a decade, prompting Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and Republican leaders such as state Senator Ted Gaines to call for thinning forests and controlled burns to reduce fire danger. Environmentalists oppose such preventive burns, saying they kill wildlife.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bernadette Baum)

Firefighters battle to save communities from epic California fire

FILE PHOTO: A firefighter knocks down hotspots to slow the spread of the River Fire (Mendocino Complex) in Lakeport, California, U.S. July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves/File Photo

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Crews battling the second-largest wildfire ever recorded in California fought on Monday to keep flames from descending a ridge into foothill communities, as reinforcements arrived from as far away as Alaska.

The Mendocino Complex Fire, made up of two separate conflagrations that merged at the southern tip of the Mendocino National Forest, had burned 273,664 acres (110,748 hectares) as of Monday morning and was still growing, on track to potentially become the largest in state history.

“Unfortunately, they’re not going to get a break anytime soon,” National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Hurley said of firefighters who had cut buffer lines around 30 percent of the blaze as of Monday. “It’s pretty doggone hot and dry, and it’s going to stay that way.”

Hurley said some temperatures could reach 110 degrees (43 Celsius) in Northern California over the next few days with 15-mile-per-hour (24 kph) winds fanning the flames. Environmentalists and some politicians say the uptick in the intensity of the state’s wildfire season may be linked in part to climate change.

The Mendocino Complex, which has destroyed 75 homes and forced thousands to flee, is the largest of eight major wildfires burning out of control across California, prompting U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday to declare a “major disaster” in the state.

“California wildfires are being magnified made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

A total of nearly 3,000 people were fighting the flames, including firefighters from Arizona, Washington, and Alaska.

Some 200 soldiers from the 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, have also been called in to help in one of the most destructive fire seasons on record.

On Sunday, 140 fire managers and specialists from Australia and New Zealand underwent special training and were outfitted with safety gear at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise before being deployed to battle fires in the Pacific Northwest and California.

Crews battling the Mendocino Complex on Monday were focusing on keeping flames from breaking through fire lines on a ridge above the foothill communities of Nice, Lucerne, Glen Haven, and Clearlake Oaks, said Tricia Austin of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“If it were to be carried outside of those lines they have on the ridge, it could sweep down into those communities, that’s what we’re trying to prevent,” Austin said.

Elsewhere in California, the two-week-old Carr Fire on Saturday claimed the life of 21-year-old apprentice lineman Jay Ayeta, who died when his vehicle crashed as he worked with crews in dangerous terrain in Shasta County, according to PG&E corporation.

He was the seventh person killed in that blaze, which has scorched more than 160,000 acres (64,750 hectares) in the scenic Shasta-Trinity region north of Sacramento.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Jonathan Allen in New York, Laura Zuckerman in Pinedale, Wyoming and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)

Wildfire burns in Portugal for fourth day, 1,150 firefighters mobilize

A helicopter drops water on a fire near small village of Monchique, Portugal August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

By Catarina Demony

LISBON (Reuters) – More than 1,150 firefighters struggled to put out a fire in Portugal’s southern Algarve tourist region on Monday, which injured 25 people overnight and led to the evacuation of homes and hotels.

The fire, which started on Friday, grew over the weekend during a heatwave sweeping large parts of Europe.

A car passes next to a fire near small village of Monchique, Portugal August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

A car passes next to a fire near small village of Monchique, Portugal August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Temperatures have started to fall from the peak of nearly 47 degrees Celsius, but it remains very hot in most of the country. Emergency services added a further 350 firefighters to combat the flames overnight.

Twenty four people were treated for light burns and smoke inhalation while one person suffered more serious burns.

People were evacuated from the area but Joao Furtado, 60, was forced to hide in a water tank to escape the flames as his house burned down, according to his sister-in-law.

“He was panicking because he was trapped in the house,” said Maria Helena Furtado. “There was fire everywhere and he couldn’t get out.”

Civil protection authorities said smoke was making it difficult for firefighting planes to access the area but nine helicopters were flying. There were 350 fire engines involved in the effort.

The fire is burning in the hills above the Algarve coast, an area popular with tourists for its hot springs. The smoke could be seen from the coast.

Antonio Monteiro, head of the Caldas de Monchique Spa Resort, one of the region’s best known hotels, said: “We had to evacuate all hotel guests and we don’t have any information about when we will reopen.”

Another hotel in the region, the Macdonald, was also shut.

Portugal’s biggest wildfire killed 114 people last year and it has since reinforced emergency services in the center of the country where the worst fires usually break out.

Until last week Portugal’s summer had been unusually cold and wet.

(Writing by Axel Bugge; Editing by Janet Lawrence)