Miami Herald (Sunday)
Wildfires blasting through West draw states to lend support
Out-of-state crews headed to Montana Saturday to battle a blaze that injured five firefighters as the West struggled with a series of fires that have ravaged rural lands and destroyed homes.
Progress was being made on the nation’s largest blaze, the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, but additional mandatory evacuations were ordered Friday evening and less than half of it had been contained, fire officials said. The growth of the sprawling fire had slowed, but increased fire activity was expected Saturday, and thousands of homes remained threatened on its eastern side, authorities said.
“This fire is resistant to stopping at dozer lines,” Oregon Department of Forestry officials said Saturday in a news release. “With the critically dry weather and fuels we are experiencing, firefighters are having to constantly re-evaluate their control lines and look for contingency options.”
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday proclaimed a state of emergency for four northern counties because of wildfires that he said were causing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.” The proclamation opens the way for more state support.
On Saturday, fire crews from California and Utah were coming to Montana, Gov. Greg Gianforte announced. Five firefighters were injured Thursday when swirling winds blew flames back on them as they worked on the Devil’s Creek fire burning in rough, steep terrain near the rural town of Jordan.
They remained hospitalized Friday. Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Mark Jacobsen declined to release the extent of their injuries.
The firefighters included three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crew members from North Dakota and two U.S. Forest Service firefighters from New Mexico.
In California, the Tamarack Fire south of Lake Tahoe continued to burn through timber and chaparral and threatened communities on both sides of the California-Nevada state line. The fire, sparked by lightning July 4 in Alpine County, has destroyed at least 10 buildings.
In Butte County, California, the Dixie Fire continued to burn in rugged and remote terrain, hampering firefighters’ efforts to contain the blaze as it grows eastward, becoming the state’s largest wildfire so far this year.
Heavy smoke from both huge fires lowered visibility and may at times ground aircraft providing support for fire crews on the ground. The air quality south of Lake Tahoe and across the state line into Nevada deteriorated to very unhealthy levels.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co., has suggested its equipment likely sparked the Dixie wildfire; a troubleman observed the fire, as well as two blown fuses on a power pole, while inspecting an outage near its origin zone, PG&E wrote.
PG&E announced Wednesday that it would move 10,000 miles of power lines underground in the coming years to decrease fire risk.
In north-central Washington, firefighters battled two blazes in Okanogan County that threatened hundreds of homes and again caused hazardous air quality conditions Saturday. And in northern Idaho, east of Spokane, Washington, a small fire near the Silverwood Theme Park prompted evacuations Friday evening at the park and in the surrounding area. The theme park was back open on Saturday with the fire half contained.
Although hot weather with afternoon winds posed a continued threat of spreading blazes, weekend forecasts also called for a chance of scattered thunderstorms in California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and other states. However, forecasters said some could be dry thunderstorms that produce little rain but a lot of lightning, which can spark new blazes.
More than 85 large wildfires were burning around the country, most of them in Western states, and they had burned over 1.4 million acres (2,135 square miles) of land.
Caltrans closed stretches of Highway 88 and Highway 89 in Alpine County this week. Highway 88 remains closed from Picketts Junction in Markleeville to the Nevada state line. Highway 89 is closed at the intersection with Highway 4. for the salmon. It averaged only about 700 fish per year from 2012 to 2019.
Attempts to repopulate Atlantic salmon in other states have stalled. The federal government ended an attempt to restore Atlantic salmon in the Connecticut River basin in 2012 after several decades because of lack of success.
Getting the fish listed on the Maine endangered list has long been a goal of many environmental groups. The Maine Endangered Species Act includes 26 endangered species and 25 threatened ones. The list includes two fish: the endangered redfin pickerel and the threatened swamp darter.
The list is designed to provide state-level protection to jeopardized species and is a complement to the U.S. Endangered Species Act. A few species, including the piping plover, are listed on both.
Environmentalists supported a bill in the Maine Legislature earlier this year that would have required the marine resources commissioner to recommend a state listing for any species that is federally listed as endangered or threatened. The proposal died in committee in June.
A group of 19 organizations and 10 scientists and conservationists sent a letter to the state that said Maine is one of the few states that doesn’t mandate or recommend state-level listing of federally listed species. Dwayne Shaw, director of the Downeast Salmon Federation, said wildlife advocates will continue pushing for salmon protections.