Record-Breaking Temperatures Fueling Wildfires Across the US

A large fire is raging over both California and Nevada, and authorities have warned that it is causing exceptional fire behavior, including the formation of “fire whirls” and hazardous circumstances for firefighters.

As of Tuesday morning, 80,000 acres had been lost to the York Fire, which has been named California’s largest fire of the year. On Friday, a fire broke out in the New York Mountain Range of California’s Mojave National Preserve, and by Sunday, when winds picked up in the blazing heat, the wildfire had spread across state lines into Nevada.

On Monday night, firefighters made some progress, and by Tuesday morning, the York Fire was 23% contained. The National Park Service reported Tuesday that “an infrared flight was completed last night, which provided a better assessment of fire size and activity.”

Some parts of the country are experiencing record-breaking temperatures, and this fire is just one of dozens currently raging across the country. Fire authorities reported Monday night that the blaze on the Nevada side of the California border was still “growing rapidly,” generating extreme circumstances that made the blaze more dangerous and harder to contain.

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On Sunday, the Mojave National Preserve reported that fire whirls had been spotted by firefighters battling the inferno. A fire whirl is “a vortex of flames and smoke that forms when intense heat and turbulent winds combine, creating a spinning column of fire,” the preserve explained.

As the hot air from the fire rises, cooler air rushes in to take its place, generating a spinning vortex that lifts smoke, embers, and flame into the air. “These fire whirls are similar to dust devils but are specifically associated with the heat and energy released by a wildfire,” the Mojave National Preserve said.

They can range in size from a few feet to several hundred feet in height, and their rotational speed can vary widely.” Fire whirls are difficult to forecast since their paths can shift rapidly, according to the park service. Tornado-like winds are not unheard of in particularly large fire whirls.

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In 2018, a fire tornado caused by the Carr Fire outside of Redding, California, was so powerful that it killed eight people and destroyed many buildings. The catastrophic blaze was fueled by gusts exceeding 140 miles per hour, the equivalent of an EF-3 tornado. Firefighters battling the York Fire are having a tough time due to the high temperatures, which have been hovering above 100 degrees for days.

York Fire smoke has spread into Nevada and southern Utah due to firefighters’ efforts to contain the blaze. A tweet from the Clark County, Nevada government stated that there were “elevated readings for particulate matter” in East Las Vegas, Boulder City, and Henderson. Hot and dry weather has resulted in 64 active big fires in 9 states, with 12 new large flames reported on Sunday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

According to the organization, there are currently more than 11,500 wildland firefighters and other personnel deployed to situations around the United States. The National Interagency Fire Center reports that as of July 31st, 2023, 1.1 million acres have burned across the United States, which is far less than the 5.7 million acres that had burned by the same time in 2022.

Record-Breaking Temperatures Fueling Wildfires Across the US

Fire on the US-Canadian Border Grows Larger

After crossing into Canada over the weekend and causing evacuations, a second massive fire in northern Washington state continued expanding in size. The Eagle Bluff Fire started on Saturday in Okanogan County, Washington, and has already spread across the border into British Columbia, where it has scorched thousands of acres.

Temperatures in the 90s and a predicted change in wind direction on Tuesday could create what officials are calling a day of “active fire behavior,” which could greatly increase the fire’s perimeter. The United States side of the fire has grown to 15,349 acres and is just 10% contained, as of Tuesday morning.

According to the British Columbia Wildfire Service, more than 3,500 acres had been lost on the Canadian side. Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) information officer Erick Thompson said at a press conference on Monday that 192 properties in Osoyoos and regions south of the town inside the RDOS were under mandatory evacuation orders.

There were additional evacuation orders for 2,635. At one point, the blaze was approaching a border patrol station in Oroville, Washington. “The #Oroville #BorderPatrol Station in #SpokanSector had a close call with a wildland fire that reached the outer fence of the property,” the US Border Patrol Spokane Sector said on Facebook.

“We are thankful for the wildland firefighters working to protect us and our community.” Another fire broke out on Monday afternoon in the Spokane, Washington, area, forcing the evacuation of at least 20 residences. According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the West Hallett Fire had burnt 200 acres by Monday night with no signs of being contained.

As of Monday morning, the US Forest Service tweeted that only 5% of the Hayden Fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, located about 19 miles west of Leadore, Idaho, had been contained.

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