LAME HIRSCH, Mont. (AP) – Wildfire raged across rural towns in the southeast on Thursday as persistent hot, dry weather spread flames across more than a dozen states across the west.
Several thousand people remained under evacuation orders when the Richard Spring Fire advanced towards the sparsely populated Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.
Meanwhile, the Dixie Fire – which began on July 13 and is the largest area fire in the country – threatened a dozen small communities in the northern Sierra Nevada, although its southern end was largely encircled by lines of fire.
The fire had burned over 780 square miles (over 2,000 square kilometers), destroyed about 550 homes, and nearly wiped out the city of Greenville. It was included at 30%.
On Wednesday, the fire in Montana showed extreme behavior and had grown tens of thousands of acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The fire, which was only 15% encircled, started on Sunday and was exploded over more than 600 square kilometers by strong gusts.
By dusk, the fire had sneaked around the evacuated town of Lame Deer within about 3.22 kilometers and jumped over a freeway that officials had hoped to stop.
Rancher Jimmy Peppers sat on his horse east of town and watched an orange glow grow near his house.
“I didn’t think it was going to cross the freeway, so I didn’t even move my farm equipment,” said Peppers, who spent the afternoon herding his cattle in a neighbor’s pasture near town. “I don’t know if I’ll have a house tomorrow morning.”
The city of about 2,000 inhabitants is home to the tribal headquarters and several subdivisions and is surrounded by rugged, wooded terrain. Late Wednesday, Lame Deer was approaching a second fire from the west, while the fire from Richard Spring raged to the east.
A few miles from town, Krystal Two Bulls and a few friends stopped to clear the undergrowth of their yard in hopes of protecting it from the flames. Thick clouds of smoke rose behind a wooded ridge directly above the house.
“We’re packed and loaded, so if we have to go we will,” said Two Bull. “I’m not afraid; I am prepared. Here you don’t just run away from the fire or leave your house. “
In addition, about 600 people in and around Ashland, a small town outside the reserve, were ordered to leave. Local, state, and federal firefighters were assisted by ranchers who used their own heavy equipment to create fire lines around homes.
The National Weather Service said a high pressure ridge entering the area would pump weekend temperatures into the ’90s.
Drought conditions have made trees, grass, and scrub bone-dry in many western states, making them ripe for inflammation. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 25 major forest fires burned in Montana alone.
At the same time, California and several other states faced monsoon moisture currents that were too high to bring real rain but could create thunderstorms that created new fire risks through dry lightning and irregular winds.
In Northern California, a series of forest fires and the threat of further forest fires resulted in three National Forests closing the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area, a 500,000-acre area of granite peaks, lakes and trails, by November.
“Chasing hikers in unsafe areas will deter badly needed aircraft from the fire fighting operations and increase the risk and exposure of first responders. In addition, the foresters hope that this temporary full closure will limit the possibility of man-made fires, ”says a forest statement.
Scientists have said that climate change has made the region much warmer and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and make forest fires more frequent and more destructive. The more than 100 major forest fires in the American West are coming as parts of Europe are also burning.
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