Low humidity and high winds fuel growth of California wildfires

  • Low humidity and high winds fuel growth of California wildfires

Low humidity and high winds fuel growth of California wildfires

Firefighters battling deadly and destructive blazes in Northern California faced worsening weather conditions on Friday after a record-breaking fire tornado last week.

Both areas remained under a "red flag warning" issued by the National Weather Service for strong winds, low relative humidity and temperatures topping 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), all conditions that can drive the growth of wildfires.

Winds in the "fire whirl" created July 26 near Redding reached speeds of 143 miles per hour (230 kph), a speed that rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said.

Dykema said the whirl uprooted trees and tore roofs from home.

California fire officials said Saturday that the two fires about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of San Francisco were 27 percent contained and have grown to nearly 250 square miles (648 kilometers). The fire has destroyed more than 1,000 structures and damaged almost 200 others.

Two firefighters and four other people have been killed since the blaze, which ignited July 23, raced with extraordinary fury toward the region's largest city.

The fire flared up in the Lakeport area Tuesday, which kept officials from being able to allow residents there home, said fire public information officer Mike Wilson.

It burned so furiously on July 26 that it created what is called a fire whirl.

The River Fire, where this video of air tanker was taken, has burned through 42,200 acres and is about 50 percent contained.

Evacuation orders were issued Thursday for parts of Lake County as wildfires burning in nearby Mendocino County grew.

So far this year, fires have blackened 4.9 million acres throughout the United States, significantly higher than the 10-year average, according to the center.

According to the latest report from Cal Fire, the most destructive blaze, the Carr fire, has grown to just below 132,000 acres, while containment is at 39 percent.

Firefighters from 16 states have rushed to California, and authorities are reinforcing 3,232 personnel on the Mendocino Complex Fire, which is made up of two blazes.

"To the northeast, Blankenheim said the fire had "some explosive growth" Friday, making another seven to eight-mile run up to the top of Indian Valley Reservoir", explaining that firefighters had eight bulldozers out Friday trying to build lines near Stonyford and hold the fire there, though the fire did "cross a dozer line (Friday) night and continued to spread".

Hughes was National Park Service fire captain and the leader of an elite "hotshot" crew responsible for fighting fires in rugged terrain.

His assistant had gone to get a new hydraulic hose.