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Fire generates its own lightning as it more than doubles in size

A fire in Northern California more than doubled in size from Friday to Saturday, creating a cloud of smoke and ash that, combined with the dry heat, sparked its own lightning and created dangerous weather conditions for firefighters, authorities said .

The sugar fire, which began on July 2, expanded to 54,421 hectares and was 8% under control by Saturday morning. The fire, the largest in the season in the state so far, was one of two started by lightning in the Plumas National Forest, collectively referred to as the Beckwourth Fire Complex. The other, the Dotta fire, started on June 30 and was 670 acres and 80 percent under control by Saturday.

Powered by a midwife heat wave that exacerbates already hot, dry conditions, the sugar fire exploded on Friday, leading to new evacuations for parts of Plumas and Lassen counties, as well as parts of Washoe County, Nev .. Washoe County evacuations were lifted on Saturday, but residents were advised to remain vigilant. Authorities said about 2,800 people remained under evacuation or warning orders.

Firefighters were gearing up for another day in extreme conditions amid even higher temperatures.

Lisa Cox, Beckwourth Company Chief Executive Officer said: “As long as it’s hot and we have low humidity, it’s hard to tell when and where we’re going to catch that.”

He said firefighters saw group rockets with long-range spots as flames tore through wooden bleachers.

“That increases the rate of fire spread, because the fire is actually moving between the treetops,” he says. “Basically, he just walks on the trees until he runs out of trees.”

Cox said that this intensity, combined with hot, dry, unstable conditions, could produce a thunderstorm like the fire did Friday afternoon, when the meteorologist observed the lightning cloud.

so-called pyrokumulonimbus clouds can, in turn, cause fires to spread even faster – in addition to lightning, they can create erratic, glowing winds.

“Yesterday, our operations staff reported spotting about a mile in front of the head of the fire,” Cox said.

Pyrocumulonimbus clouds – as well as Pyrocumulus clouds, which are similar but do not cause thunder – tend to rise in the afternoon when it is warmer and can pose an additional danger when they fall when things cool down.

“Later in the afternoon, that cloud will fall and create a bottom flow of heavy smoke, embers, that sort of thing, and it can even trigger extra fire behavior,” Cox said, noting that the collapse could send sparks miles ahead the main fire. . At the same time, the smoke also reduced visibility, keeping firefighters sitting, he said.

Due to the extreme fire behavior, it became dangerous for artisans to fight the fire immediately.

“It’s too dangerous, at least during the day,” Cox said. “At night they can try to get around formed fires. It just really depends.” He said crews have given priority to which hot areas to attack when they’ve made four infrared flights and look at where communities are at risk.

Teams were making more direct firefighters – digging a line around the fire with tools and hands – on the south flank, he said.

“But it’s definitely more dangerous as a tactic now, just because of the way the fire is behaving,” he said. “So we also have a lot of indirect firefighting efforts. That includes building bulldozer lines around the affected communities.”

He said crews were conducting strategic firing operations at the night bulldozer lines to monitor how fire is entering the area. They also built indirect bulldozer lines on the northeast flank of the fire, closer to the Nevada border, to protect homes in the Constantia Road area, he said.

He said firefighters were sent in front of the fire to explore more emergency areas where they could have had the fire.

Cox said about 1,256 personnel had extinguished the fire, including a powerful airstrike. Still, the ferocity of this year’s fire season – California has already seen more than twice as many acres burned compared to the same time last year – strained resources.

“Fire incidents come from across the state competing for resources, and it’s just hard to give employees all the people who qualify on every incident,” he said. “And including both our overhead management of the fire and the crews on the ground.”

Dangerous conditions were expected to continue over the weekend, with the National Weather Service issuing an extreme heat warning that was in effect until Monday.

Temperatures in the lower valleys near the fire should be somewhere between 100 and 106 degrees, said Dawn Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

That was the result of a massive pressure zone centered on California, Nevada, and Arizona, which produced a similar effect: heat bowls over the Pacific Northwest that produced record temperatures last month, Johnson said.

“You just get that feedback where it stays warm for several days,” he said.

Meanwhile, afternoon humidity fell between 8% and 12% and crept up to just 25% to 30% at night, while night temperatures remained warmer than normal, both of which also hindered firefighting efforts, Johnson told you.

In fact, the air is so dry that some of the water and rugged falls from planes on the sugar fire evaporate before it hits the ground, Cox said.

The fire was 70% in 490 acre prisons Tuesday, four days after it started. On Wednesday morning, it was almost quadrupled, to 2,365 acres, and content fell to 28%.

Authorities attributed the increase in heat activity to the heat that began to intensify by midwek, further fueling drought-stressed vegetation and promoting the development of high-smoke fires that helped the fire grow even more.

“It’s the temperatures that constantly wipe out these fuels and the low humidity,” Cox said. “It’s a cumulative synergistic effect.”

He said the winds are also aligned with the topography of the canyons to encourage the growth of the fire.

There were no words on whether the fire destroyed structures. Cox assessment teams were on order, but had not yet been able to make an assessment, Cox said.

He said the fire threatened power lines, major fiber optic lines and two Pacific Union rail lines.

A railroad, or subdivision, was closed after flames damaged a bridge, Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South wrote in an email. He wrote the Union Pacific Water Machine stayed in the area Saturday to spray the structures.

The fire was less than two miles from U.S. 395 Saturday morning. Firefighters tried to hold the highway west, but said he could see across the street. Still, Cox said, the terrain in this area is flat and the gases are lighter, so firefighters were confident they could get their hands on the top.

Authorities have continued to worry about extreme fire behavior, including long-range spotting that could cause more fires, Cox said. Due to the unpredictability, the public was asked to listen to warnings from local law enforcement agencies and be prepared to evacuate.

“If people want to help the firefighters,” Cox said, “this is the best way they can help the firefighters.”

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