In the American West, back-to-back heatwaves in June and July contributed to dozens of wildfires. But fire agencies are reporting some progress in corralling the flames, and forecasters predict a gradual decrease in extreme temperatures.
It’s often difficult to understand why natural disasters happen. But Christians can rest assured that the all-wise Creator not only understands but also oversees storms and temperatures. His plans for His people include peace, hope, a sure future, and His own glory (Isaiah 58:11-12)—even during the events humans struggle to make sense of.
A recent spate of fires erupted just as the West was in the grip of the second bout of dangerously high temperatures in a few weeks. The entire region is also suffering from intense drought. Fires have forced evacuations in numerous areas. Observers report some burned homes and other structures. Total losses are still being tallied.
The two largest fires scorched forests in northeastern California and southern Oregon, sending smoke across other states.
The Beckwourth Complex Fire occurred from two lightning-ignited blazes that began July 3. The fires cover about 140 square miles on Northern California’s border with Nevada. Plumas National Forest officials say firefighters successfully contained almost a quarter of the blaze but still expect some extreme fire activity.
Evacuation orders and warnings are in effect for remote areas of California’s Lassen and Plumas counties and Nevada’s Washoe County. Over the weekend, fire burned some structures in Doyle, California—a town of about 600 residents.
In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire covered 240 square miles in the Fremont-Winema National Forest. After doubling in size at least twice over the weekend, the fire has slowed some, according to Rich Saalsaa, spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal. “It’s allowed firefighters to build more lines and go on the offensive,” he says.
The blaze destroyed seven homes and 43 outbuildings in an area on the south end of the fire, Saalsaa says. “Most of these places are not within a community per se. Maybe they’re the same postal zone. But it’s kind of scattered out there, very remote,” he says.
Some 1,926 homes lie within the current evacuation zone. But Saalsaa didn’t know how many people that includes.
The Bootleg Fire disrupted service on three California electrical lines. As a result, the state’s grid operator has requested folks to voluntarily conserve power from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. to ease the strain.
Elsewhere, a forest fire started during lightning storms in southeastern Washington state. That fire grew to more than 86 square miles.
In Idaho, Governor Brad Little mobilized the National Guard to help fight twin lightning-sparked fires. They have charred nearly 24 square miles of dry timber in the remote, drought-stricken region.
Meanwhile, yet another new fire broke out Sunday in the Sierra Nevada Mountains south of Yosemite National Park. It quickly exploded over more than six square miles and triggered evacuations in parts of two counties. By Monday, firefighters had contained five percent of the blaze.
National Weather Service experts say cooler temps are coming. They report that the heat wave may have peaked in many areas—with excessive-heat warnings mostly expired.
(A firefighter sprays water while trying to stop the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, from spreading to neighboring homes in Doyle, California, on Saturday, July 10, 2021. AP/Noah Berger)