Progress in Containing California’s Thompson Fire Amidst Expanding Heat Wave

Heat wave grips California as brush fire closes interstate

Firefighters make strides in containing the Thompson Fire in California, with evacuation orders lifted and containment rising to 46%. However, damage assessments reveal 25 structures destroyed, and a new fire, the French Fire, prompts more evacuations.

Bollywood Fever: Firefighters in California made significant progress Friday against the Thompson Fire near Oroville, Butte County, leading to the lifting of extensive evacuation orders. However, damage assessments raised the number of destroyed structures to 25. Meanwhile, forecasters warned that the heat and fire risk are expanding across the West Coast.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reported that containment of the Thompson Fire increased from 29% to 46% overnight. The fire, now covering just under 6 square miles (15.5 square kilometers), showed only slight growth during the night. Most evacuation orders affecting about 17,000 people were lifted on Thursday.

Heat wave grips California as brush fire closes interstate

“Firefighters did a really good job yesterday enforcing containment lines, and wind hasn’t been a factor,” said Cal Fire Capt. Alejandro Cholico, a fire spokesperson.

Despite the progress, a new blaze dubbed the French Fire erupted Thursday evening, triggering evacuations in the small Gold Rush town of Mariposa in the Sierra Nevada foothills along a highway leading to Yosemite National Park. Bulldozers and crews quickly built a containment line along the entire eastern side of Mariposa as the flames spread over 1.3 square miles (3.4 square kilometers) before fire activity moderated. “Winds have calmed which has helped firefighters make progress overnight,” noted a Cal Fire status report.

In addition to the 25 structures destroyed by the Thompson Fire, six others were damaged. While specific details about the types of structures were not immediately available, several homes were seen ablaze after the fire ignited Tuesday morning approximately 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Sacramento. The number of reported firefighter injuries has been revised from four to two, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The Oroville region is no stranger to catastrophic events, having experienced the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history, which nearly obliterated the town of Paradise in Butte County in 2018.

Forecasters have warned that California’s blistering heat wave will continue and spread into the Pacific Northwest and adjacent western states. “The duration of this heat is also concerning as scorching above average temperatures are forecast to linger into next week,” the National Weather Service wrote.

Extreme temperatures are predicted, with Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park expected to see daytime highs of 129 degrees (53.89 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, rising to around 130 degrees (54.44 C) through Wednesday. While the official world record for the hottest temperature recorded on Earth is 134 degrees (56.67 C) in Death Valley in July 1913, some experts dispute this measurement, suggesting the real record is 130 degrees recorded there in July 2021.

Numerous wildfires have erupted across California since late spring, largely fueled by abundant grasses that grew during back-to-back wet winters and have since dried. While most have been contained quickly, some have grown significantly. The largest active fire is the Basin Fire in the Sierra National Forest, which has burned nearly 22 square miles (57 square kilometers) since late June and was 46% contained as of Friday.

As the state continues to battle these blazes, the combined efforts of firefighters and favorable weather conditions will be crucial in preventing further destruction and ensuring the safety of residents.

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Pooja Chauhan

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