Thousands displaced as wildfire threatens California’s Lake Tahoe resort area

By Sharon Bernstein

TRUCKEE, Calif. (Reuters) – Firefighters battled to protect homes on the fringe of tinder-dry forests near Lake Tahoe on Tuesday as a wildfire chased thousands of residents and tourists from the popular resort destination in California’s Sierra Nevada range.

The so-called Caldor fire, burning since mid-August in the mountains east of the state capital, Sacramento, crested a ridgeline and roared downslope toward communities at the southern end of the Tahoe basin on Monday, triggering mass evacuations.

Traffic crammed local roads as South Lake Tahoe, a town of 22,000 residents, rapidly emptied out along with several nearby villages, leaving an area normally thronged by summer vacationers largely empty – except for the smoke.

By Tuesday, the blaze had charred more than 191,000 acres (77,300 hectares) of drought-parched forests, some 14,000 acres (5,665 hectares) more than the day before, while firefighters had managed to carve containment lines around just 16% of its perimeter.

At least 669 homes and other structures were listed as destroyed on Tuesday, up nearly 200 from a day earlier, with 34,000 other buildings considered threatened, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

No deaths have been reported. Three firefighters and two civilians were injured in recent days.

As of Tuesday, nearly 4,000 personnel and a squadron of over two dozen water-dropping helicopters were assigned to the blaze, whose cause remained under investigation.

Only the Dixie fire, which has charred 771,000 acres (312,000 hectares) farther north in the Sierras, has engulfed more territory this year than Caldor.

Both fires are among nearly two dozen raging across California and scores of others elsewhere in the West, during a summer fire season shaping up as one of the most destructive on record. The blazes have been stoked by extremely hot, dry conditions that experts say are symptomatic of climate change.

More than 6,800 wildfires large and small have blackened an estimated 1.7 million acres (689,000 hectares) within California alone this season, stretching available firefighting forces and equipment dangerously thin. Cal Fire and U.S. Forest Service officials have described ferocious fire behavior seen across the region as unprecedented.

The Forest Service has closed all 18 national forests in California to the public through mid-September, an extraordinary measure the agency has taken only once before – amid last year’s catastrophic fire season. The shutdown officially begins at midnight on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Truckee, Calif; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Wildfire near French resort of Saint-Tropez kills two people

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) -A wildfire burning in the hills behind the French Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez since Monday has killed at least two people, local authorities said on Wednesday.

Some 1,100 firefighters as well as water-bombing aircraft are fighting the blaze that has scorched more than 7,000 hectares of land and forced the evacuation of several thousand people from their homes and campsites.

Firefighters have so far been unable to contain the blaze as a strong ‘mistral’ wind fans the flames across a tinderbox landscape. New fires broke out on several flanks during Wednesday.

Holidaymakers on the Mediterranean coast watched from their sun-loungers as paddleboards as thick plumes of smoke blew across the sky. Police had to shut down one stretch of motorway because of poor visibility.

The blaze broke out in the Plaine de Maures nature reserve, some 50 km from Saint-Tropez. The fire had swept through half of the reserve, causing an irreversible loss to biodiversity, junior government minister Berangere Abba said.

“We have some hope conditions will ease tonight, but there are no guarantees,” local prefect Evence Richard told a news conference.

Two people had been killed and 24 hurt, among them five firemen, he said, adding that it was still too early for those evacuated to return home or to their holiday lodgings.

President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday left his nearby summer retreat to thank the firefighters for their efforts.

Waves of extreme heat have hit much of the Mediterranean region in recent weeks, with wildfires in Spain, Greece and Turkey raising uncomfortable questions over global warming and countries’ preparedness.

(Reporting by Marc Leras in Marseille and Sudip Kar-Gupta and Richard Lough in Paris; Editing by Tom Hogue, Giles Elgood and Philippa Fletcher)

Wildfire breaks out east of Rome, locals evacuated

ROME (Reuters) – Locals were evacuated from small communities around 40 km (25 miles) east of Rome on Friday when a wildfire broke out as the Italian capital faced temperatures of around 37 degrees Celsius (99 Fahrenheit).

Swathes of southern Italy have been plagued by wildfires in recent weeks, with flames ravaging woodland in Calabria, in the toe of the Italian boot, and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

Wednesday saw the temperature reach almost 49 Celsius in south-eastern Sicily, reported as the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe.

The heatwave is now moving north and overnight 25 families were evacuated from their homes as fires spread through the nature reserve of Monte Catillo, near the Rome suburb of Tivoli, firefighters said in a tweet.

Around 30 residents of a home for poor children and orphans were also evacuated to escape the flames.

Wildfires also broke out overnight near the town of Otranto, in Italy’s southern heel, firefighters said. A nearby seaside resort was evacuated due to the choking smoke and the coastal road heading south from Otranto was closed to traffic.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday promised financial help for communities hit by the fires, and a plan of action to replant forest areas and make the Italian countryside more resilient to natural disasters.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Angelo Amante and David Holmes)

California’s second-largest wildfire grows to near 500,000 acres; 3 hurt

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – A raging wildfire in northern California, now the second-largest recorded in state history, expanded to nearly 500,000 acres late on Sunday and has left three firefighters injured.

The Dixie Fire, burning northeast of San Francisco, had grown to 489,287 acres or 764.5 square miles (1,980 square kilometers) from about 274,000 acres in the middle of last week, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Twitter.

The blaze has been active for 26 days and is 21% contained, the department said. The burned area is about the size of Cancun in Mexico, and larger than the city of Houston in Texas.

Fire activity intensified on Sunday amid low relative humidity and strong southwest winds in the West Zone, and warm temperatures and low humidity in the East Zone, the department said, adding it has spread across four counties.

More than 5,000 firefighters are currently tackling the Dixie Fire.

“We’re seeing fire activity that even veteran firefighters haven’t seen in their career,” Edwin Zuniga, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the Washington Post.

Only the August Complex Fire of 2020 in California, which consumed more than 1 million acres, was bigger.

Thus far, no deaths have been attributed to the wildfire. However, the blaze has damaged 42 residential, commercial and other structures and destroyed 627 such structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Plumas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) issued new evacuation orders on Sunday afternoon after the spread of the Dixie Fire.

California typically experiences peak fire season later in the year. The state was on pace to suffer even more burnt acreage this year than last year, which was the worst fire season on record.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Pacific Gas & Electric has said it may have started when a tree fell on one of the utility’s power lines.

A federal judge late on Friday ordered Pacific Gas & Electric to explain the utility company’s role in starting the fire. U.S. District Judge William Alsup said PG&E would have until Aug. 16 to respond.

“PG&E’s responses will not be deemed as an admission by PG&E that it caused any fire, but they will serve as a starting point for discussion,” the judge said.

PG&E told the Washington Post daily that it “will respond by the deadline.”

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Residents flee as winds fan massive wildfire in southern Turkey

ANKARA (Reuters) – A massive forest fire in southern Turkey spread to the town of Manavgat as the flames were fanned by strong winds on Wednesday, according to the local mayor, and TV footage showed residents running for their cars as streets were engulfed in smoke.

Footage showed plumes of black smoke rising from the forest around Manavgat, 75 km (45 miles) east of the resort city of Antalya, and Mayor Sukru Sozen said flames had spread as far as the town center, where many buildings were being evacuated.

“The fire has spread to the town center. It’s growing even more with the wind. It’s impossible for us to determine the size of the damage, there is damage in the villages too. We have not seen anything like this,” Sozen told broadcaster Haberturk.

Antalya Mayor Muhittin Bocek said the fire had started at four different points. He told Haberturk four neighborhoods had been evacuated but there were no reports of casualties yet.

Authorities could not immediately say what caused the fire.

Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said authorities were battling the flames with a firefighting plane, 19 helicopters, 108 vehicles and some 400 personnel.

Turkey’s AFAD disaster agency said emergency teams from nearby provinces were also called into action, while authorities evacuated settlements near the forest.

Antalya, a popular destination for both foreign and local tourists, is known for its scorching summer heat. Bocek said the extreme heat and strong winds were fanning the fire as it swept through the pine forest.

The fire comes as Turkey battles with a series of disasters caused by extreme weather conditions in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, flash floods in the Black Sea provinces of Rize and Artvin damaged homes and property. The floods killed six people in Rize, according to AFAD.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Alex Richardson)

‘If you don’t leave, you’re dead:’ Oregon wildfire forces hundreds from homes

By Deborah Bloom and Sergio Olmos

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (Reuters) – A growing wildfire in a bone-dry Oregon forest had forced hundreds of people from their homes by Wednesday as it charred more than 200,000 acres (80,940 hectares) and showed no signs of slowing, officials said.

The so-called Bootleg Fire, which has spread through the Fremont-Winema National Forest about 250 miles (400 km) south of Portland since July 6, has destroyed 21 homes and threatened 1,926 more, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland.

By Wednesday morning, the fire had left a thick haze over nearby Klamath Falls, where the local fairgrounds were turned into a Red Cross evacuation center.

Tim McCarley, one of the evacuees, told Reuters earlier this week that sheriff’s deputies and state troopers showed up at his home just as “sparks and embers were coming down” and told his family “if you don’t leave, you’re dead.”

“This is my first wildfire and I’m going to tell you, it is scary,” another evacuated resident, Sarah Kose, added this week. “You don’t know if you’re going to be the one that loses your house, or you sit there and you watch your neighbor lose their house, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

The Bootleg Fire is the biggest of several wildfires scorching parts of Western states, where a drought and a recent record-setting heat wave have left brush and timber highly flammable.

So far, it has burned more than 212,000 acres (330 square miles), including about 50,000 acres (20,230 hectares) on Monday alone, and crews have managed to put containment lines around only 5% of it.

In all, 60 large fires have consumed more than 1 million acres (404,680 hectares) across 12 states this season, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, a firefighting group combining eight federal agencies.

Last year, numerous late summer wildfires, fueled by gusty winds and hot, dry terrain, killed more than three dozen people and charred more than 10.2 million acres (4.1 million hectares) in California, Oregon and Washington.

Earlier in the week, flames burning along a high-voltage power corridor connecting Oregon’s electricity grid with California’s affected power supplies, prompting the agency that manages California’s power grid to issue temporary conservation alerts. But as the worst of the heat wave abated, the alerts were withdrawn.

(Reporting by Sergio Olmos in Portland, Oregon and Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Deborah Bloom and Mathieu Louis-Rolland in Klamath County, Oregon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Brutal heat wave persists in U.S. West as Oregon wildfire rages

(Reuters) – A punishing heat wave was again forecast to bring near-record temperatures to much of the U.S. West on Monday, as a wildfire in drought-stricken Oregon continued raging out of control.

The agency that manages California’s power grid, the California Independent System Operator, issued a “flex alert” urging residents to conserve power between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. local time on Monday, after the Bootleg Fire in Oregon disrupted electric transmission lines.

The fire had burned through more than 153,000 acres (nearly 240 square miles) as of Monday morning, mostly in Oregon’s Fremont-Winema National Forest.

Hundreds of residents in the Klamath Falls area are under mandatory evacuation orders, and the Klamath County Sheriff’s Department has begun issuing citations and will consider the unusual step of making arrests if necessary people to enforce them, county officials said.

Other states have also confronted fires amid the heat. In California along the Nevada border, the Beckwourth Complex Fire had grown to around 89,600 acres (140 square miles) as of Monday morning, with approximately 23% containment, according to the state’s fire incident reporting system.

The National Weather Service predicted additional record highs on Monday in some areas, a day after Death Valley, California, hit a scorching 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 Celsius), one of the highest temperatures ever recorded on Earth.

But forecasters said the intense heat had likely peaked across much of the region, ahead of more seasonable temperatures later this week.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

Forest fire guts small western Canada town after days of record-breaking heat

(Reuters) -A wildfire that began after three days of record-breaking temperatures has destroyed most of the small western Canadian town of Lytton and damaged a nearby hydro power station, a local politician said on Thursday.

Lytton, in central British Columbia, was evacuated a day earlier. This week it broke Canada’s all-time hottest temperature record three times.

Officials braced for more sizzling weather and the threat of more wildfires from a deadly heat wave that also ravaged the U.S. Northwest with record-high temperatures.

“The town has sustained structural damage and 90% of the village is burned, including the center of the town,” Brad Vis, a Member of Parliament for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, said in a Facebook post.

He said the fire also caused extensive damage to BC Hydro stations and highways, limiting access to Lytton by road.

Amateur video footage showed residents scrambling to get out of town in their cars as fires burned down trees and some structures. The fire spread so swiftly that people were forced to leave behind their belongings and pets.

Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman ordered everyone in the town of 250 to vacate late on Wednesday.

“It’s dire. The whole town is on fire,” Polderman told the CBC. “It took, like, a whole 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to, all of a sudden, there being fire everywhere.”

Residents of another 87 properties north of Lytton were also ordered to leave on Wednesday.

Lytton set a record of 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.28 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday. The previous high in Canada, known for brutally cold winters, was 45 degrees Celsius, set in Saskatchewan in 1937.

On Wednesday, strong winds gusting up to 71 kph (44 mph) were recorded in the area, further flaming the fires.

In British Columbia, at least 486 sudden deaths were reported over five days to Wednesday, nearly three times the usual number that would occur in the province over that period, the B.C. Coroners Service said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Denny Thomas in Toronto; Editing by Howard Goller and David Gregorio)

Firefighters move in on Southern California canyon blaze despite high winds

By Dan Whitcomb and Gabriella Borter

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Firefighters battling a blaze in a Southern California canyon made some progress toward containment but were up against more high winds and low humidity on Friday, which threatened to stoke the flames as they tore through wooded hillsides.

The Bond Fire, which had forced some 25,000 people in Orange County to evacuate, broke out around 10 p.m. on Wednesday night on the street for which it is named and quickly engulfed Silverado Canyon, egged on by strong Santa Ana winds.

“Firefighters worked through the night extinguishing hot spots, mopping up around structures and stopping the forward spread of this fire,” Captain Paul Holaday of Orange County Fire Authority said in a video posted to Twitter on Friday.

Air and ground units were focused on protecting the canyon communities of Silverado, Santiago, Williams and Modjesca on Friday, Holaday said.

In a Friday morning bulletin, the National Weather Service said a red flag warning for high gusty winds was in effect until 10 p.m. Saturday for the inland portion of Orange County, where officials said the Bond Fire still held claim to some 6,400 acres. The strongest winds were expected Friday morning.

Two firefighters involved in the effort were injured and transported to a local hospital for further treatment, the Orange County Fire Authority said on Twitter on Thursday.

The blaze was 10% contained as of Friday morning.

Woodsy Silverado Canyon, miles from Southern California’s suburban sprawl up a single winding road, is home to an eclectic mix of residents including artists, horse owners and ranchers.

Fire officials have not yet said what they believe to be the cause of the fire, although Silverado Canyon and Bond Road resident Giovanna Gibson, 60, told Reuters that neighbors believed the blaze ignited when the owners of a home without power tried to start their generator and it exploded.

Since the start of the year, wildfires have scorched more than 6,500 square miles (17,000 square km) of California land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The yearly land area burned in the western United States has grown eight times larger in less than four decades, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station said in research published last month.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Diane Craft)

Fire sweeps through Southern California canyon, residents flee

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A blaze that ignited overnight in a single-family home injured two firefighters and forced residents of a rustic Southern California canyon to flee their homes on Thursday, as flames tore across some 4,000 acres of dry brush and wooded hillsides.

The Bond Fire, which broke out at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, was driven through Silverado Canyon in Orange County by gusty Santa Ana winds. Authorities issued evacuation warnings to thousands of people.

“There were two firefighters that were injured while battling the Bond Fire this afternoon,” the Orange County Fire Authority said on Twitter. “They were treated by firefighter paramedics and transported to a hospital for further care.”

The woodsy canyon, miles from Southern California’s suburban sprawl and reached by a single winding road, is home to an eclectic mix of residents including artists, horse owners and ranchers.

Some 500 firefighters aided by water-dropping aircraft battled the flames, which sent smoke drifting across Orange and Los Angels counties, but had not achieved any containment as of mid-afternoon on Thursday.

Fire managers said they believed homes and other structures had been damaged by the blaze but could not yet provide details. Power was knocked out to some 50,000 homes across the region.

The Red Cross set up an evacuation point at a community college near the mouth of the canyon.

Since the start of the year, wildfires have scorched more than 6,500 square miles (17,000 square km) of California land according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The state has grappled with fires of record-breaking intensity and size in recent years and 2020 has been particularly difficult.

“We’re in December and we now have active wildfires still in our state,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said at a press briefing. “These Santa Ana winds have been quite intense.”

The yearly land area burned by severe wildfires in the western United States has grown eight times larger in less than four decades, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station said in research published last month.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis, Diane Craft and Tom Brown)