Heat, wind threaten to fuel growing western wildfires

YREKA, Calif. (AP) — Major wildfires in California and Montana increased significantly as firefighters protected remote communities on Sunday, as hot, windy weather in the tinder-dry U.S. West made an even greater outbreak. born.

US Forest Service spokesman Adrienne Freeman said the McKinney Fire was spiraling out of control in northern California’s Klamath National Forest as erratic lightning storms swept the area south of the Oregon state line.

“Fuel beds are very dry and they can explode with just that lightning,” she said. “These thunderstorm cells come with strong erratic winds that can fire in every direction.

The size of the fire exceeded 80 square miles (207 sq km) two days after it exploded in a largely populated area of ​​Siskiyou County, according to a Sunday incident report. The cause was being investigated.

Freeman said a second, smaller fire in the west that was hit by dry lightning on Saturday threatened the small town of Cead. About 400 homes were at risk from two California fires.

In Montana, a fire that broke out in grasslands near the town of Elmo covered more than 11 square miles (28 sq km) after it progressed into the woods. The National Weather Service said temperatures could rise to 96 degrees (36 Celsius) with strong winds in western Montana by Sunday afternoon.

About 200 miles (320 km) to the south, residents of Idaho were under evacuation orders on Saturday after the Moose Fire in Salmon-Challis National Forest covered 67.5 square miles (174.8 sq km) of wooded land near the town of Salmon. burned more. On Saturday it was 17%.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday as the McKinney Fire intensified. The proclamation allows Newsom more flexibility to make emergency response and recovery effort decisions and access federal aid.

California law enforcement knocked on doors in the city of Yereka Fort Jones urging residents to get out and get their animals onto trailers safely. Automated calls were also being sent over land phone lines as were areas without cell phone service.

The Pacific Coast Trail Association urged hikers to head to the nearest town, while the U.S. Forest Service closed a 110-mile (177-km) stretch of trail from Etna Summit to Mount Ashland Campground in southern Oregon.

In western Montana, the wind-driven Elmo Fire forced the evacuation of homes and livestock as it moved across grass and wood. The National Interagency Fire Center estimates that it may take about a month to get the fire under control.

According to the Montana Department of Transportation, a section of Highway 28 between Hot Springs and Elmo was closed due to thick smoke.

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