Lightning, high winds, sweltering heat: the huge fire ravaging California generates its own climate
Eva Deschamps / July 26, 2021
The largest fire in California, which has already devoured the equivalent of the city of Chicago in vegetation, is so large that it is now generating its own climate, at the risk of making the task of firefighters who fight it even more difficult Monday.
5,400 firefighters are mobilized to face the flames of the Dixie Fire in the forests of Northern California. The blaze has only grown since mid-July, fueled by sweltering heat, alarming drought and continuous winds.
The Dixie Fire is so large that it has already created clouds called pyrocumulus in recent days that cause lightning, high winds and in turn fuel the fire.
Tomorrow could be very difficult: if these clouds are high enough, they have the potential to produce lightning, warned Julia Ruthford, the meteorologist assigned to the blaze.
Despite its size, the Dixie Fire has so far progressed mainly in extremely remote areas, which explains why only dozens of structures (houses and other buildings) have been destroyed so far.
Progressing on extremely steep paths, the firefighters are sometimes assisted by a train, from which they can copiously spray the otherwise inaccessible areas.
But in these weather conditions, the embers can easily fly more than a mile from the fire explains to AFP Rick Carhart, spokesman for the firefighters, and the places that host evacuees as the village of Quincy, are themselves threatened.
Fires have already ravaged 3 times more vegetation this year than they had at this time in 2020, yet the worst fire year in California history.