Hundreds of firefighters worked Friday to fight three wildfires that engulfed more than 15,000 acres in northern California, including a tourist area preparing to welcome numerous visitors for the long weekend of July 4th.
Authorities have ordered an evacuation along Lake Shasta, an area popular with campers south of the Oregon border, as rising temperatures, drought and winds are helping to spread the fire.
About 40 buildings were destroyed, including at least half a dozen homes near Lakehead, according to an AFP photographer on the site.
“Everything is so dry due to the drought. We had very little rain, the lake level is very low for this time of year. These are perfect conditions for fires,” says Cecil Hengst, owner of Camp Lakehead. The camp, which he said was full, but had to close due to an evacuation order.
“The fire was really close … This one was dangerous,” said Hengst, who has been working in the area for 12 years.
According to authorities, the “Salt Fire” threatening the area was caused by a vehicle traveling Interstate-5, the main highway leading from Canada to Mexico, and had to be briefly closed to traffic on Thursday due to flames.
Further north, the “Lava” and “Tennant” fires continued to spread into wooded areas where waves of thick gray smoke rose.
The “lava fire” was caused by a lightning strike last week. In the last 24 hours, more than 500 lightning strikes have been recorded in California, threatening to cause more fires.
Dozens of fires are currently active in western North America, from Canada to California, after a deadly heat wave.
California has had about 600 more fires so far this year than in the same period in 2020, the worst in its modern history with more than 1.5 million acres in smoke.