theguardian– Evacuation orders were expanded Tuesday for a growing wildfire driven by intense winds that has shut down a key southern California highway for more than a day.
At least 200 firefighters battled the Alisal fire, which had scorched 8,000 acres (12.5 sq miles) along coastal Santa Barbara county and remained completely uncontained.
The fire erupted Monday on a ridge and blasted toward the ocean, forcing closure of US 101, the only major highway on that section of the coast.
“There’s a lot of dead, decadent, receptive fuel beds in the area where this fire started,” said Andrew Madsen, a public information officer with Los Padres national forest, who noted the area where the fire started hadn’t burned in decades. Evacuation orders have been issued for residents in Refugio Canyon and the El Capitan state park and El Capitan campground are closed, while hundreds of homes, ranches, and other structures remain under threat.
Strong winds, with gusts reaching up to 70 mph, drove the fire down to the ocean and prevented aircraft from battling the blaze from above, officials said.
“It’s been a hectic fire season,” Madsen said. Firefighters have worked tirelessly this year, deployed on weeks-long assignments peppered with only a few days of rest. “But the good news is a lot of the fires up north are being contained,” he added, “so they have shed resources so they have been available to come assist on this fire.”
In northern California, fire crews increased containment of a blaze that destroyed 25 mobile homes, 16 RVs and a park building at the Rancho Marina RV park in Sacramento county. At least 20 structures were still threatened, according to the River Delta Fire District.
No injuries were reported, and the cause remained under investigation.
To the south in San Joaquin county, a man suffered burns and about five mobile homes were damaged by flames that raced through the Islander mobile home park, Lathrop-Manteca fire chief Josh Capper told Fox40-TV.
The injured man suffered severe third-degree burns over most of his body, Capper said.
Close to 2m acres have burned already this year in California, according to Cal Fire, with months of potential fire weather left. Autumn typically brings blustery winds that blow hot and dry, and vegetation, dried through the hot summer, is primed for ignition. Windy weather is a nightmare for firefighters in a state where heatwaves and historic drought tied to climate change have left forests and brush tinder-dry.
The winds were in full effect through the early part of this week, surging through the state and raising fears of fresh wildfires. Red flag warnings of dangerous fire conditions continue in mountains, valleys, canyons and deserts. At least a half-dozen fires erupted around the state on Monday. The utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) shut off power to about 24,000 customers in 20 central and northern California counties to reduce the risk that power lines could be toppled and spark wildfires there. While in the process of restoring service on Tuesday, the utility said it might need to cut power to about 29,000 customers across 19 counties on Thursday because of potential wildfire threat.
Winds of 25 mph (40kp/h) with gusts up to 70 mph (112kp/h) were expected into early Tuesday evening. The National Weather Service said blowing dust was widespread from the Sacramento Valley, across the San Joaquin Valley and into the high desert Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles.
In the Sierra Nevada, firefighters achieved 30% containment on the KNP Complex fire, which has scorched more than 87,400 acres. The blaze burned through groves of giant sequoias in Sequoia national park and scientists are concerned hundreds of the tall trees may have succumbed in the flames. On Monday, a firefighter with a hand crew working on the blaze was struck by a rolling rock. The firefighter was airlifted to a hospital and is in stable condition, fire officials said.
… we have a small favour to ask. Millions are turning to the Guardian for open, independent, quality news every day, and readers in 180 countries around the world now support us financially.
We believe everyone deserves access to information that’s grounded in science and truth, and analysis rooted in authority and integrity. That’s why we made a different choice: to keep our reporting open for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This means more people can be better informed, united, and inspired to take meaningful action.
In these perilous times, a truth-seeking global news organisation like the Guardian is essential. We have no shareholders or billionaire owner, meaning our journalism is free from commercial and political influence – this makes us different. When it’s never been more important, our independence allows us to fearlessly investigate, challenge and expose those in power. Support the Guardian from as little as $1 – it only takes a minute. If you can, please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month. Thank you.