Firefighter assigned to fire in California dies of disease | MCUTimes

Firefighter assigned to fire in California dies of disease

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, California (AP) – A firefighter has died of an illness while being assigned to one of California’s largest …

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, California (AP) – A firefighter has died of an illness while being referred to one of California’s largest wildfires, authorities said Sunday, marking the first death in a season in which a fire had destroyed thousands of buildings and forced entire cities to flee.

Edwin Zuniga with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said he could not provide other details about the death.

The Dixie fire began in mid-July in northern Sierra Nevada and is the second largest wildfire in recorded state history. It has burned nearly 1,400 square miles (3,625 square miles) in five counties and three national parks and forests, according to Cal Fire.

Three firefighters were injured during the fight against the fire, which was 56% contained after destroying nearly 1,300 homes and other buildings.

The fire was fought by 3,800 firefighters from various agencies. Calmer winds and higher humidity over the past two days helped crews try to surround the fire, which raged at its highest through more than 100,000 acres of timber in a single day, firefighters said.

The flame still consumed 10,000 to 20,000 acres “which seems huge, except when compared to the size of the entire fire,” said Robert Jones, a fire information officer.

It was the first reported death among the more than 7,000 wildfires that have hit California this year in a season marked by drought and hot, dry weather that has turned timber, brush and grassland into peaks throughout the western United States. California fires have burned over 3,000 square miles (nearly 8,000 square miles).

Fire concerns have closed all national forests in the state.

California has experienced ever-larger and more deadly wildfires in recent years, as climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Researchers have said that the weather will continue to be more extreme and that fires will be more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.

South of Dixie Fire, Caldor Fire remained just miles from the popular Lake Tahoe resort on the California-Nevada border. About 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe were ordered to evacuate last week.

During the night, crews working on the eastern edge of the fire were able to keep the fire within current containment lines, and the huge flame was now 43% contained, according to Cal Fire.

There was not immediately a word on when residents might be allowed to return home, but in a briefing Sunday morning, Tim Ernst, a fire chief, said crews would continue to put out embers and dry hotspots to make it safe to repopulate some communities around South Lake Tahoe “in the coming days.”

Mandatory evacuation orders on the Nevada side of the state line were lifted Saturday, but some areas remained on a warning status. Douglas County officials urged residents to stay awake and said the fire still has the potential to threaten homes.

The fire has injured five firefighters and civilians and burned more than 700 homes, Cal Fire reported. Nearly 28,000 homes, businesses and other buildings remained threatened, ranging from cabins to ski resorts.

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