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A fire in California raged through the uninhabited mountainous wilderness Thursday, but did not pose an imminent threat to the nearby town of Paradise, the site of the deadliest wildfire in recent US history. Still, survivors of the 2018 fire feared history could repeat itself.
The Dixie Fire had burned 3.5 square miles of bushes and wood near the Feather River Canyon area in Butte County northeast of Paradise and moved to national woodlands in neighboring Plumas County.
There was no containment and officials maintained a warning to residents of the tiny communities of Pulga and East Conkow that they should be ready to leave.
In the early hours of the morning, the fire raced over steep and inaccessible terrain about 10 miles from Paradise, the suburb that was practically burned by the campfire that killed 85 people. The current fire that broke out in the rugged Feather River Valley northeast of Paradise has not advanced towards the city and residents have not been asked to evacuate.
Larry Peterson, whose house in neighboring Magalia survived the previous fire, said some of his neighbors would get their belongings together in case they had to flee.
“Every time you have a fire after what we’ve been through and a new one comes along, you have to worry,” he told KHSL-TV.
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Other locals stocked up on water and other items.
“We pretty much walked with our clothes on,” said Paradise’s Jennifer Younie during the previous brand. “So this time we want to be better prepared and more vigilant.”
Joyce Mclean’s house was on fire last time, but she rebuilt it and will do it again if necessary, she told the broadcaster.
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“We take how it comes every day and when it happens it happens,” said Mclean. “There’s not much we can do about that.”
With little foliage growing in the area since the Paradise fire in 2018, there is now nothing to burn the current fire, Butte County’s supervisor Bill Connelly told the Sacramento Bee.
“It is unlikely to be a direct threat right now,” he said. The fire is one of nearly 70 active forest fires that destroyed homes and burned approximately 1,562 square miles – a total area larger than Rhode Island – in a dozen mostly western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
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In southern Oregon, the Bootleg Fire, currently the largest area fire in the United States, covered more than 355 square miles early Thursday after a day of extreme behavior and explosive growth. In the Fremont-Winema National Forest area north of California, hit by a historic drought, twenty-one homes were destroyed and another 1,900 remained threatened.
“This fire will continue to increase – the extremely dry vegetation and weather are not in our favor,” said Joe Hessel, an incident commander, in a statement.
The nearby log fire, which started as three small fires on Monday, billowed to more than 12 square miles as winds pushed the flames east through the wilderness.
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Tim and Dee McCarley could see trees go up in flames in their rearview mirror as they escaped the fire at the last minute last week. They had postponed their departure to pack more belongings and look for their missing cat.
“The sheriff’s department was there and said, ‘If you don’t get out of here you will die,'” said Tim McCarley, 67, as he, his wife and stepson were resting at a shelter on the Klamath County Fairgrounds Wednesday .
“We ran around like a chicken with our head cut off, throwing things in the car. Then we said, ‘Okay, that’s it … we have to go. “
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Tim McCarley was allowed to return shortly after the fire spread across their rural community northwest of Bly. He found his house still standing and her cat unharmed in it. But the flames had crept within 5 feet of their home, the heat melting their trailer and storage units until they looked “like a melted beer can,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
The National Weather Service tweeted late Wednesday that a “terrifying” satellite image showed gigantic clouds fueled by smoke and hot air – a sign that the flames were so intense it was their own weather with unpredictable winds and potential generated for fire-generated lightning.
“Please send positive thoughts and good wishes to the firefighters. … It’s a difficult time for them right now,” the tweet said.
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Extremely dry conditions and heat waves related to climate change have inundated the region and made fighting forest fires difficult. Climate change has made the American West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
An extreme heat wave late last month dried up vegetation in the Pacific Northwest, where firefighters say they are facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall than early July. The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center put the region on high alert on Wednesday as dry gusts were expected in some areas and new fires surfaced.
In California, the state’s largest fire to date that year grew 156 square miles north of Lake Tahoe near the Nevada state line.
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The Beckwourth Complex, a fusion of two lightning-induced fires, was 68% contained but new evacuations were ordered on the north side as the wind carried embers in front of the fire, officials from the Plumas National Forest said Thursday morning.
The fire “created its own independent weather patterns throughout the day,” a statement said.
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A wildfire that threatened more than 1,500 homes near Wenatchee, Washington, grew to 24 square miles Thursday morning and was about 10% contained, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources said.
About 200 firefighters fought the Red Apple Fire near the city in northern Washington, famous for its apples. The fire also threatened apple orchards and a substation, but no structures have been lost, officials said.