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Windy weather keeping wildfire crews on their toes

Nation’s 2 largest fires prone to spreading

For the second day in a row, windy weather will make it a bit more difficult to keep Northern California wildfires in check.

Crews have been making progress lately controlling the Dixie and Caldor fires, the two largest in the country, which stand at 963,276 and 219,101 acres, respectively. As of Monday evening, they were 90% and 76% contained, respectively.


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The Dixie fire started on July 13, while the Caldor fire began on Aug. 14.

A trough of low pressure has set up along the Sacramento Valley, helping to produce increasing winds that have spread into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, including the two fire areas. The National Weather Service issued red-flag warnings for the region Sunday, forecasting the elevated fire weather conditions to last through Tuesday morning.

Gusts from the east and northeast could reach 35 to 40 mph, with stronger gusts near some canyons and ridgetops.

In Monday evening’s Dixie fire report from InciWeb, fire officials said the winds were “continuing to dry out fine fuels and could test western containment lines,” adding the promising comment that the “majority of activity continues on unburned islands with low likelihood of escaping perimeter containment lines.”

The situation was a bit worse at the Caldor fire, where officials reported “increased fire activity within the current control lines near Lake Margaret and south of Pyramid Peak; structures in Cody Meadow remain threatened as a result.” Also, structures near Wrights Lake remained threatened. However, there was a low probability of fire growth due to natural rock barriers.

Along with gusty winds, crews will have to deal with warmer temperatures Tuesday in the upper 70s to low 80s, as well as very low humidity below 15%.

(Map: FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events and radar, Sep. 21, 2021, 8 a.m. ET. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

Despite recent rain in northern California, the regions remain in a serious drought. There’s no meaningful rain in the forecast for at least the next week.

Fire and law enforcement officials have reopened U.S. Highway 50 to the public in the Caldor fire area, but drivers should expect hazy conditions with potential spots of reduced visibility.

Lanes of concern

• Dixie fire areas: California Route 89 closed from Lassen Volcanic National Park to California Route 36 East.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.