“The fire is about to crest over the mountain, any minute now,” he said. Dozens of firefighters with chain saws had been at work trying to cut a fire line above the town’s cemetery the night before, he said, but with heavy brush and high winds, the odds were not good.

“Worse-case scenario, pretty much,” he said.

Mr. Kelly worked in hemp cultivation in the Sierra Valley, but this year’s wildfires claimed the farm. “My brother lost his home in Belden, too,” he said. “Everyone I know lost their homes. Yesterday my buddy lost his home outside of Greenville. It’s just, everybody.”

The current fire season, spurred on by months of drought and blistering heat waves, has threatened dozens of communities across the West. As climate change exacerbates drought conditions, fires are spreading with a rare speed and scope.

“These are not the normal fires anymore,” Mr. Cagle, the section chief, said. “It’s just intense fire behavior, and it’s not what we’re used to.”

The Dixie Fire is one of 96 burning in the United States, including 11 in California and 24 in Montana, according to federal wildfire data. The River Fire, which broke out on Wednesday about 40 miles northeast of Sacramento, has already burned 2,400 acres, forcing thousands of evacuations. As of Thursday afternoon, the fire was not yet contained and had destroyed 50 structures and damaged 30 more. There have been no fatalities reported.

The Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon is the largest in the country this year, having burned more than 400,000 acres. It was so intense at one point that it generated its own weather.

A red flag warning, indicating that conditions are ripe for increased risk of fire danger, was in effect through Thursday for areas around the Sacramento Valley and points farther north, including Plumas County, the National Weather Service said. Wind gusts up to 35 m.p.h. were also expected.

Source From Nytimes

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