Heat, strong winds drive quick spread of wildfire at Calif.-Nevada border

By Don Jacobson

July 10 (UPI) -- Excessively dry forest conditions and strong winds have combined to fan a complex of wildfires along the California-Nevada border into the largest blaze so far this year, fire officials say.

The Beckwourth Complex fire, located about 50 miles northwest of Reno, Nev., on the eastern edge of the Plumas National Forest, exploded in size Friday, according to the U.S. Forest Service in Quincy, Calif.


The fire had burned more than 38,000 acres by Friday evening and was just 9% contained, fire officials said. That made it the biggest of California's wildfires so far this year, surpassing the 25,000 acres burned by the ongoing Lava fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Mandatory evacuations were issued by the Plumas County Sheriff's Office Friday for Dixie Valley and for residents living near the county's border with Lassen County.

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Authorities in nearby Washoe County, Nevada, ordered an evacuation of people living near the state line and set up a receiving center for them at a high school in Reno.

The Beckwourth Complex fire is a combination of the Dotta fire, which was started by lightning on June 30, and the Sugar fire, which began three days later. It spread by 14,000 acres Friday after temperatures in the area rose and humidity fell, driven by strong southwestern wind gusts.


With the National Weather Service forecasting a "widespread and dangerous" heatwave reaching as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of northern California this weekend, fire conditions are likely to worsen.

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"The weather will continue to trend towards hotter and drier with a forecasted heat wave this weekend," fire officials said, adding that moistures in the forest "remain critically low."

"The fire is experiencing significant rates of spread with intense fire growth," they reported. "Heavy down drafts and erratic winds are expected."

Scenes from California's record-breaking wildfire season

Smoke from fires in Northern California lowers visability of the Bay Bridge and San Francico as viewed from Yerba Buena Island on October 2. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

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