Burning money: The facts on California's soaring cost to fight wildfires

Flames engulf a ridge as the River Fire threatens the town of Lakeport Calif. Aug. 3 2018

Flames engulf a ridge as the River Fire threatens the town of Lakeport Calif. Aug. 3 2018

After years of drought and a summer of record-breaking heat, enormous tracts of forests, chaparral and grasslands have become tinder that allows even a small spark to explode into a devouring blaze, authorities said.

KQED's Lesley McClurg and Kat Snow reported for NPRthat the fires have had lasting impacts on residents there, "Confronting constant reminders of what fire can do has become a terrifying reality for people who survived last year's flames and are still piecing their lives back together".

More than 14,000 firefighters are battling over a dozen major blazes throughout California, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean said.

The River Fire is 35,278 acres and 50 percent contained.

The blaze in the Redding area, 225 miles (360 kilometers) north of San Francisco, is the largest of 18 wildfires burning throughout California.

The fire remained several miles from the evacuated communities along the eastern shore of Clear Lake, but "it looks like there's dicey weather on the way", California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Jane LaBoa said. The forecast included extremely low humidity levels that leave vegetation ready to burn.

New evacuations are in order for the fires and have been issued for southwest Glenn County.

The Ranch Fire is only 23% contained.

Traffic passes through heavy smoke from the River Fire at sunset as it threatens the town of Lakeport Calif. Aug. 3 2018
Traffic passes through heavy smoke from the River Fire at sunset as it threatens the town of Lakeport Calif. Aug. 3 2018

Its size overtook the deadly Carr Fire, about 100 miles (160 km) to the northeast, which is among 17 major blazes burning in tinder-dry forests and woodland peppered with dead trees from the state's 2011-2017 drought.

On Wednesday, Aug. 1, Cal Fire announced that the Eel Fire, is "no longer a Cal Fire incident" and had been transitioned to the U.S. Forest Service - Mendocino National Forest. More than 1,000 homes have been razed and 9,000 residents remain evacuated from their homes, he said.

Officials have not said how the other three firefighters died fighting blazes near Yosemite and Redding.

The declaration for Shasta County will increase residents' eligibility for programs and support in areas such as housing, employment and medical services and provide financial assistance to affected governments dealing with emergency response and recovery costs. The twirling tower of flame reached speeds of 143 miles per hour, which rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said.

Dykema said wildfires typically create whirls, but rarely of the strength of the one recorded July 26.

In the Sierra Nevada, firefighters achieved 41 percent containment of the Ferguson Fire, a forest fire that has shut down Yosemite Valley and other adjacent portions of Yosemite National Park at what is normally the height of summer tourism.

"In past decades, we may have seen a fire that we're seeing now (such as the Carr Fire), in August or September", CalFire Director Ken Pimlott said during a press conference earlier this week.

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