The weather helps, but the threat of wildfires in the West persists

FORESTHILL, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters made progress against a massive wildfire in Northern California that continued to grow and threatened thousands of mountain homes on Sunday, while crews also battled major blazes that covered vast swaths of Oregon and Washington up in smoke.

The Mosquito Fire in the foothills east of Sacramento has expanded to nearly 168 square kilometers, with 10% containment, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

“Cooler temperatures and higher humidity helped moderate some of the fire activity,” but stronger winds allowed flames to move north and northeast, a report said. Cal Fire incident on Sunday.

More than 5,800 structures in Placer and El Dorado counties were under threat and some 11,000 residents of communities such as Foresthill and Georgetown were under evacuation orders.

In Southern California, cooler temperatures and rain brought respite to firefighters battling the massive Fairview Fire about 121 miles southeast of Los Angeles after sweltering heat last week.

The 44-square-mile (114-square-kilometre) blaze was 45% contained by Sunday. The fire destroyed at least 30 homes and other structures in Riverside County. Two people died while fleeing the flames last Monday.

A helicopter assisting in operations for the Fairview Fire crashed into a residential yard while attempting to land at a local airport on Saturday afternoon, fire officials said. The injuries to the pilot and two other people were not critical.

Pacific Northwest Wildfires

The southern part of the state welcomed cooler weather over the weekend as a tropical storm deflected off the Pacific coast and subsided, helping to end searing temperatures that nearly overwhelmed the power grid of State.

Thunderstorms and the risk of flooding persisted Sunday in the mountainous areas of greater Los Angeles. But after Hurricane Kay made landfall in Mexico last week, it was quickly downgraded and weakened until it was largely gone, forecasters said.

To the north, the remnants of Kay caused flooding on Saturday that stranded about 40 vehicles and closed a section of State Highway 190 in Death Valley National Park. The park was still cleaning up from flooding five weeks ago that closed many key roads.

In Washington state, firefighters were scrambling to secure resources in the fight against a blaze that started Saturday in the remote Stevens Pass area that scarred hikers and forced evacuations from mountain communities. There was no containment Sunday of the Bolt Creek Fire, which had scorched nearly 12 square miles (31 square kilometers) of forest land about an hour and a half east of Seattle.

“The fire will continue to progress in areas that will be unmanned. With limited resources, only point protection will be in place while resources continue to mobilize against the fire,” an incident report said Sunday morning.

The California Mosquito Fire blanketed much of the Northern Sierra region in smoke. California health officials have urged residents in affected areas to stay indoors as much as possible. Tour de Tahoe organizers canceled Sunday’s annual 115-mile bike ride around Lake Tahoe due to thick smoke from the fire, more than 80 miles away. Last year’s trip was canceled due to smoke from another large fire south of Tahoe.

The cause of the Mosquito Fire remained under investigation. Pacific Gas & Electric said unspecified “electrical activity” occurred shortly after Tuesday’s report of the fire.

Scientists say climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Over the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in state history.

And the rest of the West has not been spared. There have been at least 18 large fires in Oregon and Washington, prompting targeted evacuations and power outages near Portland as the challenge of dry and windy conditions continued in the region.

Large areas of western Oregon choked with thick smoke from the fires of the past few days are expected to see improved air quality on Sunday thanks to the return of overland flow, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

South of Portland, more than 3,000 residents were under new evacuation orders due to the 134-square-mile (347-square-kilometer) Cedar Creek Fire, which burned for more than a month in the Lane and Deschutes counties. Firefighters were protecting remote homes in Oakridge, Westfir and surrounding mountain communities.

According to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, this weekend there were more than 400 square miles (1,035 square kilometers) of active, uncontained fires and nearly 5,000 people on the ground fighting them in the two states of the North West.