As fire crews got the upper hand on the Caldor Fire in northern California this weekend due to improved weather conditions, three new fires broke out in other parts of the state.
The Aruba Fire ignited in San Diego County, to the southeast of the small community of Rainbow. By Monday, firefighters had the vegetation fire 30 per cent contained and evacuation orders have been lifted for residents.
North of Sacramento, the Bridge Fire has burned 300 acres and is only 5 per cent contained, the state agency Cal Fire reported, with some areas under mandatory evacuation.
To the east of the city, the Lawrence Fire broke out on Sunday but has been 60 per cent contained after burning through 46 acres.
The new fires broke out as tens of thousands of people forced to flee the Lake Tahoe area were beginning to return home. Public officials reported that they had been able to gain some control over the Caldor Fire which has been threatening the popular resort area.
The Caldor is the 15th largest wildfire in California history, burning more than 216,000 acres and destroying 920 structures in El Dorado and Amador counties. The blaze has been raging for three weeks and is currently 44 per cent contained.
Both the Caldor and the Dixie Fire this summer hold the dismal record of being the first two blazes in California history to burn from one side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the other.
In the city of South Lake Tahoe, and other lakeside communities, evacuation orders were downgraded on Sunday and roadblocks lifted. But residents were warned that risks still remain from smoke-clogged air and wildlife which had sought refuge in towns.
“The delicate balance between humans and bears has been upset,” El Dorado County sheriff’s Sgt Simon Brown told the AP and said police should be notified if bears have entered homes.
More than 14,500 firefighters are on the ground in California tackling 14 major wildfires and four prolonged blazes. Since the beginning of 2021, more than 2 million acres have burned in the state.
A Fire Weather Watch is in effect from Tuesday for the county of Modoc, along the Nevada border, due to gusty winds and low humidity. The likelihood of lightning, a major cause of wildfires, also has a greater chance this week.
“The potential for large fire will remain elevated away from the coastal areas through next weekend as hot and very dry conditions continue,” Cal Fire reported.
This has been a summer of wildfires around the world from California to Crete; the outskirts of Rome, and the Siberian tundra.
In California, larger, more intense fires are being fuelled by extreme heat and a mega-drought gripping the state. These conditions are linked to the climate crisis, caused largely by greenhouse gas emissions from decades of burning fossil fuels.
In California, average temperatures have risen 1C in the past century and the hottest years on record have been the past seven. All but three of California’s 20 largest recorded fires have occurred in the last 20 years.