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Crews scramble to make progress against California wildfires

Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

“That is helping fuel this fire with a lot of extra dead and dry vegetation that is available and ready to burn,” Garrett said. “It also creates a lot of fire-weakened trees falling all over the highway and endangering people’s lives.”

Similar dynamics were in place around the nearby Windy fire burning in the Tule River Reservation and Sequoia National Forest, which had destroyed two commercial structures and forced 430 people from their homes.

The fire was also sparked by lightning Sept. 9. It had grown to 71,349 acres and was 5% contained as of Saturday morning.

Specialists have been checking on giant sequoia groves, including the Long Meadow Grove where the Trail of 100 Giants is located, with drones flying over other areas that are hard to reach, to see how intensely the fire burned through. So far, most of the trees appear to have escaped major damage, said Nathan Judy, public information officer for California Incident Management Team 5.

The fire has been growing in all directions, with winds pushing embers and firebrands in front of the main firefront during windy conditions Thursday night, he said. Some of those turned into spot fires that made runs on Friday, when the heat of the day kicked up and humidity dropped, he said.

The fire was not that active overnight into Saturday, as relative humidity recoveries improved, Judy said. Still, the activity was expected to pick up as the day progressed, and crews were toiling to catch spot fires in steep, inaccessible terrain, he said.

 

Weather trends were similar to those over the Fawn fire, with temperatures expected to drop a couple degrees each day through Tuesday, when they were forecast to be about 10 degrees below average, said Brian Ochs, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.

Temperatures are expected to then increase to near average or slightly warmer than average by Thursday or Friday, he said.

Wind gusts could also increase Tuesday as the cold front moves in with the storm system to the north, which is not expected to drop precipitation as far south as the Windy or KNP Complex fires, Ochs said.

The fires were compromising air quality and resulting in smoky skies throughout Central California and as far south as Los Angeles.

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