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Crews scramble to make progress against California wildfires

Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Firefighters were scrambling to contain the Fawn fire ahead of the potential wind event, Ross said.

“We’re going to try and get this wrapped up before then so that doesn’t impact us,” he said.

The fire was one of 11 active wildfires burning in California that had drawn more than 9,800 personnel, according to Cal Fire. So far this year, 7,641 fires have scorched more than 2.4 million acres in the state, outpacing every other year except last year, when nearly 3.7 million acres had burned by this date.

Authorities say these fires are also becoming more intense and harder to fight. Experts attribute the shift to drought and heat waves exacerbated by climate change, as well as overgrown forests that are helping to fuel high-severity fires with buildups of dry, dead vegetation.

Nearly 350 miles southeast of the Fawn fire, the 42,048-acre KNP Complex fire continued to grow in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Authorities reported zero percent containment as of Saturday morning.

Friday was one of the most active days for the fire since it was sparked by a Sept. 9 lightning storm, said Mark Garrett, public information officer with the National Park Service.

 

That’s in part because it moved down into the foothills closer to the visitors center, picking up speed as it moved from mixed-conifer forests to grass and oak woodlands, Garrett said. Crews were able to meet the fire there using backfiring operations, as well as helicopters that were able to get up earlier in the day and assist before the smoke set in, he said.

Along the southern tip of the fire, flames slopped over control lines along Paradise Ridge and were continuing to move uphill on the slope, which is overgrown and has no recent history of fire, Garrett said.

A finger of the fire was coming down to Mineral King Road, a couple miles west of cabin communities in the area, and crews were trying to stop it from moving closer to homes, he said.

“We pulled some resources from other divisions and are getting eyes on that down there and seeing where we’re able to hold it or not,” Garrett said, adding that crews are hoping to take advantage of the fact that the fire is moving downhill, rather than racing uphill, in that area.

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