Western wildfires calm down in cool weather, but losses grow

Cal Fire Capts. Derek Leong, right, and Tristan Gale monitor a firing operation, where crews set a ground fire to stop a wildfire from spreading, while battling the Dixie Fire in Lassen National Forest, Calif., on Monday, July 26, 2021.
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INDIAN FALLS, Calif. (AP) — Cooler weather is helping calm two gigantic wildfires in the U.S. West. But property losses mounted Tuesday in a tiny California community savaged by flames last weekend and in a remote area of Oregon.

They also are both bracing for more hot, dry conditions later in the week. Authorities say teams reviewing damage from the massive Dixie Fire in the mountains of Northern California so far have tallied 36 structures destroyed and seven damaged in Indian Falls.

A weather phenomenon has trapped smoke over the fire, helping lower temperatures and keep humidity up.

In southern Oregon, better weather also helped the fight against the Bootleg Fire, but new assessments show 161 homes have been destroyed.

Tuesday’s Bootleg Fire update from fire bosses on the scene is below:

This morning the Alaska Incident Management Team assumed leadership of the Bootleg Fire after several days of transition with the other teams.

Incident Commander Norm McDonald thanked the Pacific Northwest Team 2, Oregon State Fire Marshal Red Team, and Oregon Department of Forestry Team 1 for leaving us in such a good position.

“We will continue operations with a focus on the safety of the community and our firefighters,” said Commander McDonald. We’re continuing with community and agency partners to suppress the fire as effectively as possible to protect timber, ranchlands, and other local values.” 

As of yesterday, the southern boundary line continued to hold; this area remains in patrol status. 

Operations focus on eliminating remaining hot spots and burning out fuel pockets to widen the perimeter and secure the fire’s edges. 

Rugged terrain on the northwest side of the fire makes suppression slow going.

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. Favorable weather today will create a good window for direct attack. 

On the northeast side, crews extinguished a small spot fire of less than 3 acres that jumped the perimeter.

With the changing weather conditions, spotting potential should decrease today, but crews will remain vigilant and respond quickly to threats as they arise.  

Temperatures are expected to cool today with an increase in humidity and likelihood of isolated showers continuing through tomorrow. The mild weather will have a short-term calming effect on the fire behavior. But due to the extremely dry conditions and fuels, as the week progresses and temperatures rise, aggressive fire behavior is likely to quickly rebound. 

Yesterday, a thorough damage assessment was finalized that tallied the number of buildings damaged and destroyed in Klamath and Lake counties. 

This fire has a very large footprint and it is important to fire managers that the impact to people’s homes and other structures be accurately examined and counted.

Surveying experts were able to safely access remote areas where the fire has caused significant damage and provide updated reporting to fire managers. In total, 161 residences were destroyed and 247 outbuildings.  

In addition, 342 vehicles were destroyed in the fire. 

These numbers may increase as firefighters and surveyors continue to work through the interior of the fire. For additional information on submitting insurance claims after a wildfire, please visit https://dfr.oregon.gov/insure/home/storm/Pages/wildfires.aspx or call the state’s team of consumer advocates at 888-877-4894 (toll-free). 

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