LOS ANGELES – A violent fire in southern Oregon has destabilized California’s already congested power grid, as an oppressive heat wave and persistent drought threaten much of the region.
The bootleg fire, which doubled in size Saturday to nearly 77,000 acres in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, cut off three power lines that transmit power from Oregon to California, energy officials said. As a result, California has lost thousands of megawatts of imported power and is likely to struggle to maintain operating reserves as temperatures hover in triple digits in parts of the state.
The heat wave has also triggered fires throughout California and much of the West. California’s largest fire, Beckwourth Complex Fire 45 miles north of Lake Tahoe, has shown no signs of slowing down after a doubling in size between Friday and Saturday.
The fire caused evacuations, a closure of part of a national forest and posed a serious danger to the area’s campgrounds, National Forest Service officials said. It is one of several brush fires burning in California.
“Climate change is considered a key driver” for the state’s recent wildfire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said earlier this year.
Temperatures in parts of California have reached near-record highs with Death Valley hitting 130 degrees on Friday, just four degrees shy of a world record set in 1913.
Officials urged Californians to save power Saturday despite soaring temperatures.
“The intense heat waves we have experienced in California and throughout the West will affect almost any power grid,” said Elliot Mainzer, president and CEO of the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the power grid in large parts of the state. “We are facing a serious situation here on the web.”
Residents were also asked this week to reduce water consumption by 15 percent as a worsening drought continues to deplete water reserves across the state. As of Thursday, 50 of California’s 58 counties are in an exceptional drought.
California’s northern mountain areas have experienced several major fires that have destroyed more than a dozen homes. Although there are no confirmed reports of building damage, the Beckwourth Complex Fire encouraged evacuation orders or warnings to about 2,800 people along and the closure of nearly 200 square miles of Plumas National Forest.
On Friday, hot rising air formed a giant, smoky pyrocumulus cloud that reached thousands of feet high and created its own lightning, fire information officer Lisa Cox said.
Spot fires caused by embers jumped up to a mile in front of the northeast flank – too far for firefighters to safely fight – and the winds pulled the fire up in a row and ravines full of dry fuel where “it can actually pick up speed,” Cox said.
The flames rose up to 100 feet in places, forcing firefighters to focus on building bulldozer lines to protect homes.
Firefighters usually take advantage of cooler, more humid nights to get on fire, Cox said, but the heat and low humidity never escaped. The more than 1,200 firefighters were aided by planes, but the fire was expected to continue to spread.
Forest fires are also raging in western Idaho and southeastern Washington, prompting Washington government Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency and ban most outdoor and agricultural materials from burning until Sept. 30.
“Washington is facing a historic drought and we have already experienced record heat. We need to be aware of our efforts to prevent forest fires and the loss of human life and destruction of land and property that come with them,” Inslee said in a statement. . “We do not want a repeat of recent years with dangerous fires across the state that have destroyed cities, killed livestock and resulted in weeks of unhealthy air quality.”
Associated Press the contribution.