- Much of California could see higher temperatures this week.
- California’s Independent System Operator issued an energy alert.
- The largest fire burning in the West is Oregon’s Bootleg fire.
California and Nevada’s governors planned a tour near their state line Wednesday to assess damage from a massive wildfire burning near the border as officials warned residents of the Golden State to conserve energy because of worsening fire conditions.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, both Democrats, will be near the Tamarack Fire, which has burned more than 68,000 acres between the two states south of Lake Tahoe.
Firefighters battling the flames there were hopeful for more rain after Tuesday brought cooler, wetter and more humid conditions to fight back the fire. Thunderstorms and heavy rain were possible Wednesday, the U.S. Forest Service said, and similar conditions had the potential to last through Friday.
“This wet stuff fell out of the sky yesterday that I barely remembered and recognized,” Dan Dallas, an incident commander for the fire, said Tuesday.
However, much of the rest of the state could see higher temperatures, which prompted California’s Independent System Operator, which oversees all power systems in the state, to issue a statewide alert Wednesday asking people to conserve energy later in the afternoon and evening.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for areas near the California and Oregon border.
More on wildfires:Wind, higher temps could worsen California’s largest wildfire; East Coast sees more smoky skies
While some thunderstorms are possible throughout the West, conditions are expected to remain warm with pyrocumulonimbus clouds, or “fire clouds,” possible near dry thunderstorms.
Overall, 79 large wildfires are burning 1.5 million acres in 12 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
The largest remains Oregon’s Bootleg fire, which was sparked by lightning July 6. The fire has burned more than 410,000 acres in the Fremont-Winema National Forest but is more than halfway contained.
Tuesday brought wetter conditions near the fire, and while some storms are possible later in the week, the area is expected to remain dry with winds growing and humidity dropping, the Forest Service said.
Firefighters said they had contained much of the southern line of the fire but have struggled more with the northwest side because of rugged terrain. “There is a concentration of snags, downed logs, and slash that provide heavy fuels to the fire. And while progress is being made, this area continues to be a challenge,” Forest Service officials said in a statement.
California’s largest fire, the Dixie Fire near Lassen National Forest, has burned more than 210,000 acres and destroyed 31 buildings. It was 23% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Firefighters expected the western part of the blaze to grow in the coming days because of the drier conditions and temperatures “well above normal” Wednesday to Saturday, the Forest Service said.
The fires have also worsened air quality throughout the country. Earlier in the week, the East Coast saw hazy, smoky skies return from fires in the West and Canada. Vermont on Wednesday remained under an air quality alert. Parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho had a similar warning.
Scientists agree climate change has made wildfires and their effects in the West worse in recent years as warmer weather and drought fuel the hot, dry conditions.
Heat waves:The heat wave in the West ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change
In a study published Monday in the peer-reviewed Nature Climate Change journal, researchers found the odds of record temperatures breaking the previous highs by extreme levels – three or more standard deviations – could be seven times more likely to occur in the next 30 years compared to the prior 30 years.
Erich Fischer, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology who led the study, told the Guardian the data was “really quite worrying.”
“Many places have by far not seen anything close to what’s possible, even in present-day conditions, because only looking at the past record is really dangerous,” he told the newspaper.
In late June, a heat wave along the Pacific Northwest caused hundreds of deaths in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Canada.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called it “a harbinger of things to come” as it relates to climate change.
Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; The Associated Press