Those fighting the massive and unprecedented wildfires throughout California finally got a little help from Mother Nature early this morning. Lower temperatures and increased humidity have somewhat assisted firefighters in corralling the wildfires of Northern California. According to Captain Don Camp of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, containment of the fire in the Lower Lake region north of San Francisco was 12% this morning after holding at 5% for days.
The Lower Lake fire, known as the Rocky Fire, the largest of the 21 fires currently burning in California, tripled in size over the weekend and measured 93 miles by this morning. The sheer size of the Rocky Fire has caused officials to order 12,000 people to evacuate their homes. They have also closed several roads. California state fire spokesman, Jason Shanley, stated that, “It’s jaw-dropping to see some of the things it is doing.” Currently, the fire has destroyed 24 homes and 26 outbuildings and is threatening 6,300 homes.
Many of the California fires started when lightning struck brush and trees during the lengthy drought. Steady lightning and low humidity have continued to fuel the fires. And, although the lower temperatures and increased humidity are currently helping the 9,300 firefighters battling the blazes, gusty winds are expected throughout the day, which could intensify the fires.
On Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, prompting the National Guard to mobilize and assist in the disaster response. Brown stated that the recent, record-setting drought has “turned much of the state into a tinderbox.” According to the United States Forest Service, one firefighter has died in his efforts to combat the spreading fires. David Ruhl, a father of two from Rapid City, South Dakota, was killed while fighting the Frog Fire in Northern California’s Modoc National Forest.
In addition to the Rocky and Frog Fires, many other fires continue to wreak havoc with varying degrees of containment. The Willow Fire, northeast of North Fork in the Sierra National Forest, was 60% contained as of Sunday night. The Cabin Fire, which burned over 2,600 acres since the middle of July, remains relatively stable and calm, but is only 2% contained. No structures have yet to be destroyed in the Willow or Cabin Fires, but six people have been injured in the Willow Fire.
This morning, the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag warning for Modoc County. Officials request that people exercise extreme caution during Red Flag warnings “because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire.”