Aug. 4 (UPI) — The Dixie Fire in California grew to 274,139 acres on Wednesday, vaulting it into position among the state’s 10 largest wildfires.
The U.S. Forest Service reported “extreme fire behavior” in Butte and Plumas counties with a Red Flag fire weather warning in effect from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday night. The blaze was 35% contained as of Wednesday evening.
“Over the next 24 hours, the fire perimeter will be monitored closely as high-risk burning conditions challenge firelines,” the agency said.
The fire grew 20,000 in 24 hours, making it the eighth largest blaze in modern California history, nestled between the 273,246-acre Cedar Fire in 2003 and 2017’s Thomas Fire, which burned 281,893 acres.
In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire grew to 413,765 acres with 84% containment as a Red Flag Warning and Fire Weather Watch were in effect for the second consecutive day.
The U.S. Forest Service said the fire line was holding as helicopters dropped water on the active fire and southwesterly winds brought smoke from fires burning in Northern California, creating overcast skies that kept temperatures cooler.
Ninety-five large fires are currently active throughout the United States, burning a total of 1.88 million acres, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center Wednesday.
As the blazes continue to burn, U.S. Forest Service Fire Chief Randy Moore issued a memo to all regional foresters to temporarily halt the process of “managing fires for resource benefit” in which agencies let some smaller fires burn themselves out rather than quickly putting them out.
“The 2021 fire season is different from any before,” Moore said, noting that firefighters are “fatigued” after an active 2020 fire season and that rising COVID-19 infections are degrading response capacity “at an alarming rate.”
“The current situation demands that we commit our fire resources only in instances where they have a high probability of success and they can operate safely and effectively,” he added.
The change comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized the process at a meeting to discuss the fires with President Joe Biden and governors of other Western states last week.
“There’s a culture that too often is wait-and-see,” Newsom said. “We can’t afford that any longer.”