A fast-growing fire near South Yuba River State Park in Nevada County, Calif., about 70 miles northeast of Sacramento, has grown to more than 900 acres in two days, prompting evacuation orders for hundreds of residents of nearby communities, the authorities said Thursday.
The blaze, named the Rices fire, is one of more than 50 large wildfires and complexes that have burned across parts of the United States so far this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Those fires have collectively burned more than two million acres in 12 states, the center said.
Wildfires are increasing in size and intensity in the Western United States, and their seasons are growing longer. Recent research has suggested that heat and dryness associated with climate change are factors in the increase in bigger and stronger fires.
The Rices fire began in a structure at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the authorities. As of Thursday afternoon, it was about 12 percent contained and was threatening 250 structures, they said.
More than 370 firefighters are working on putting out the fire, and seven of them have been injured, according to Cal Fire, short for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Mary Eldridge, a spokeswoman for the agency’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit, said that those injuries were related to heat, but that the firefighters had since recovered and returned to the fire line.
“Climbing on a rock face, in direct heat from the sun, with no shade; it’s really hard to stay hydrated,” she said, adding that the fire was burning along a steep cliff face that hugs the Yuba River, making it extremely difficult to access.
On Thursday, aircraft were dumping water on the hottest parts of the fire in an attempt to extinguish it, said Ms. Eldridge, adding that the authorities were considering whether to have firefighters rappel down the ravine to extinguish some of the most hard-to-reach-areas.
Together with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office, Cal Fire’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit is leading efforts to put out the fire.
On Thursday, winds were forecast to shift from an easterly to a southwestern direction, with gusts of up to 20 miles per hour that could cause smoke, reducing visibility on the ground, Cal Fire said in an incident update released at 7 a.m.
Since Wednesday, temperatures had dropped and humidity had increased, helping firefighters to extinguish hot areas of the fire and build and improve containment lines using hand tools and bulldozers, Cal Fire said, adding that its objective was to keep the fire from entering neighboring Yuba County.
Andrew Trygg, a spokesman for the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, said that he was hopeful some residents would be able to return to their homes by Thursday evening. But, he added, “We need to make sure that it’s safe for everyone to return and that they won’t have to evacuate again.”
Ms. Eldridge, the Cal Fire spokeswoman, said that the authorities were hoping to contain the fire by Sunday, but that it would depend on the winds and the heat generated by the fire, as well as on the ability of the firefighters to get into the “nearly impossible” location.
She added, “We are cautiously optimistic.”
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