Thousands Evacuate as Wildfires Ravage Utah and Northern California

As intense forest fires continued to burn in parts of the western United States on Sunday, triggering thousands of evacuations in Utah and Northern California, Oregon firefighters announced on Sunday that they had completely contained what was once the largest forest fire in the country that year.

The Dixie Fire in California had spread to more than 550,000 acres in four counties in the northern part of the state and was 31 percent contained on Sunday morning, according to Cal Fire. The fire is now the largest in the United States on record, displacing the Oregon Bootleg Fire, which authorities said was 100 percent contained on Sunday after devastating more than 400,000 acres since early July City square.

In eastern Utah, the fast-paced Parleys Canyon Fire, which ignited Saturday afternoon, quickly forced the evacuation of at least 6,000 homes, according to authorities. Utah Governor Spencer Cox warned Sunday would be “another difficult day of fire” as the fire had charred and 0 percent contained at least 1,500 acres east of Salt Lake City.

Mr Cox said some Utah firefighters were returning from their forest fire service in other states to fight the fire in Parleys Canyon.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sunday that it had agreed to a request from Utah officials to cover the cost of the fire. The American Red Cross of Utah announced that 25 people had stayed in a shelter the organization set up on Saturday night at a high school in Park City.

State fire services said the fire broke out when a car sparked off a highway after its catalytic converter, a device used to control exhaust emissions, malfunctioned.

The Utah Department of Public Safety said in a statement Saturday that authorities had discovered two fires burning a mile apart along a highway in Parleys Canyon and that the fire was rapidly spreading to a nearby mountain.

The fire continued in an easterly direction and was moving “at a high pace,” the department said.

The Summit County sheriff, which also includes Parleys Canyon, said on Twitter Saturday night that some residents had refused to evacuate and that their decision put firefighters and other rescue workers at risk.

Saturday was a dry, muggy day in parts of Utah. In Salt Lake City, the temperature peaked at 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, and the humidity dropped to as much as 13 percent.

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Updated

Aug 16, 2021, 7:09 p.m. ET

Some much-needed help may be on the way later this week for the firefighters fighting the state’s three wildfires, the largest of which is Parleys Canyon. There was a chance of rain and thunderstorms across much of the state between Tuesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

In Northern California, the Dixie Fire had destroyed 1,120 buildings and threatened a further 14,838 buildings by Sunday, the authorities said. Three firefighters suffered unspecified injuries, according to Cal Fire, who said the cause of the fire is still being investigated.

Fire is the largest single origin in California history. Last year, lightning strikes in three National Forests in California set off multiple wildfires in the August Complex that burned more than a million acres.

For more than a month, firefighters have struggled to stifle the flames of the Dixie Fire that destroyed the gold rush town of Greenville, California, earlier this month, where before-and-after satellite photos showed the devastation.

The area where the Dixie fire burned was predicted to have thunderstorms on Sunday, a development that rescue workers said could hamper fire-fighting operations if lightning strikes. A drought in the region, in which temperatures could reach 100 degrees with less than 18 percent humidity, made the area particularly susceptible to forest fires, the authorities said.

Although forest fires occur every year in the west, scientists see the impact of climate change in the extreme heat waves that contributed to the intensity of the fires this summer. Long periods of unusually high temperatures are a signal for a change in climate, it is said.

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