New blazes break out as progress made on Holy Fire

Otago Daily Times - - WORLD -

BOISE/LAKE ELSINORE: Six large new wild­fires have erupted in the United States, push­ing the num­ber of ma­jor ac­tive blazes na­tion­wide to more than 100, and more are ex­pected to break out, sparked by light­ning strikes on bone­dry ter­rain, au­thor­i­ties said yes­ter­day.

More than 30,000 per­son­nel, in­clud­ing fire­fight­ers from across the United States and nearly 140 from Aus­tralia and New Zealand, were bat­tling the blazes, which had con­sumed more than 648,000ha, the Na­tional In­ter­a­gency Co­or­di­na­tion Cen­tre (NICC) said.

‘‘We are ex­pect­ing that there will be more fire­starts to­day,’’ Jeremy Grams, lead fore­caster with the Storm Pre­dic­tion Cen­tre in Ok­la­homa, said.

He said dry thun­der­storms, which pro­duce light­ning but lit­tle rain, were ex­pected for parts of the Rocky Moun­tain re­gion, while the US north­west had crit­i­cal fire­weather con­di­tions that in­cluded strong winds and low rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity.

Fire­fight­ers were bat­tling an­other day of ex­tremely hot tem­per­a­tures and strong winds yes­ter­day, the NICC said.

The fires have scorched states from Wash­ing­ton to New Mex­ico. Cal­i­for­nia is among the hard­est hit.

A me­chanic help­ing to fight the Carr Fire, near Red­ding in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia, was killed in a car crash on Fri­day, the eighth per­son to die in that fire.

The 77,243ha Carr Fire has de­stroyed nearly 1100 homes.

About 160km south­west of that fire, about 3500 fire­fight­ers are bat­tling the Men­do­cino Com­plex Fire, which had burned 132,828ha as of yes­ter­day and is the largest fire on record in Cal­i­for­nia.

Mean­while, fire­fight­ers have made sig­nif­i­cant progress against the Holy Fire in the Cleve­land Na­tional For­est near Lake Elsinore, rais­ing its con­tain­ment from 10% to 29%.

The blaze has been burn­ing along in­ac­ces­si­ble ridges and moun­tains in Orange and River­ side coun­ties since Tues­day, chew­ing through bone­dry chap­ar­ral, short grass and brush that have not seen a fire in decades.

As of yes­ter­day morn­ing, the fire — named for Holy Jim Canyon Rd, near where it started — had burned 8690ha and 12 struc­tures, of­fi­cials said. A dam­age assess­ment team was work­ing yes­ter­day to de­ter­mine whether more struc­tures had been dam­aged or de­stroyed.

The Holy Fire has in­jured three fire­fight­ers and dis­placed more than 20,000 peo­ple. It was in­ten­tion­ally set, of­fi­cials said.

Orange County au­thor­i­ties have ar­rested For­rest Gordon Clark (51) and charged him with mul­ti­ple counts of ar­son in con­nec­tion with the fire.

He ap­peared in court in Santa Ana on Satur­day and his ar­raign­ment is set for Au­gust 17. — Reuters/TNS

PHOTO: TNS

Brought to light . . . Two ve­hi­cles that went down the hill­side some time ago are uncovered by the Holy Fire at Lake Elsinore.

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