California's Dixie Fire rages as temperatures expected to rise across US

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California’s Dixie Fire, the largest wildfire burning in the western state, has jumped to 167,430 acres. 

The fire, which is just 18% contained, was started 10 days ago, though the cause is still under investigation by Cal Fire. 

As firefighters worked to battle the Dixie Fire’s flames in Butte and Plumas counties, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Friday for Plumas, Butte, Lassen and Alpine counties — where fires have collectively destroyed homes, forced evacuations and damaged critical infrastructure.

Newsom said the wildfires were causing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.”

His proclamation opens the way for more state support.

Firefighter Jesse Forbes rubs his head while battling the Dixie Fire near Prattville in Plumas County, Calif., on Friday, July 23, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Dixie Fires is just one of the more than 83 fires and complexes that have burned 1,366,587 acres nationwide.

13 “new large fires” were reported yesterday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Nearly 22,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel are working to fight the wildfires, including the Golden State’s lightning-sparked Tamarack Fire south of Lake Tahoe.

However, while cooler weather has aided in the effort for much of the West Coast, windy conditions have obstructed progress in Alpine County and meteorologists are warning that another heat wave will grip much of the U.S. this weekend and into next week.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said Saturday that an Excessive Heat Watch was already issued over parts of Idaho and eastern Oregon, where temperatures are expected to rise into the 100s through Sunday. 

“Most of the Lower-48 will observe above normal temperatures through at least the first half of the week with a heat wave building into the Northern Plains. Meanwhile, the Southwest and portions of the Northeast will be below average thanks to widespread cloud cover,” the NWS Weather Prediction Center tweeted Saturday morning. 

Firefighters monitor a backfire they lit to stop the Dixie Fire from spreading near Prattville in Plumas County, Calif., on Friday, July 23, 2021. AP Photo/Noah Berger

In addition to winds, weekend forecasts also called for a chance of scattered thunderstorms in California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and other states – though forecasters said some could be dry thunderstorms with little precipitation but a lot of lightning.

Extreme drought coupled with sweltering heat worsened by the impact of climate change have made wildfires harder to fight, more frequent and destructive. 

So far, there have been 730 more wildfires in California this year than in 2020 – a historic wildfire season that scorched more than 4 million acres in the state – and nearly triple the area has burned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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