Speed Reads

western wildfires

At least 70 major fires are burning in the western United States

There are more than 70 major fires burning in the western United States, with the largest blaze, Oregon's Bootleg Fire, growing on Sunday to more than 476 square miles — an area roughly the size of Los Angeles.

There are 2,000 firefighters battling the blaze, which is being driven by high winds. "Weather is really against us," John Flannigan, an operations section chief, told The Associated Press. "It's going to be dry and air is going to be unstable." The fire, which is at 22 percent containment, has forced about 2,000 people to evacuate and burned at least 67 houses and 100 outbuildings.

South of Lake Tahoe, the Tamarack Fire — sparked on July 4 by a lightning strike — is being fueled by dry brush and a heat wave. It has scorched 21,000 acres, and after jumping a highway, is close to the small town of Markleeville, California. There are evacuation orders now in place for six communities near Markleeville and two campgrounds in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. At least two buildings have been destroyed in the fire.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento said lightning is possible through Monday in Northern California and Southern Oregon, and with "very dry fuels, any thunderstorm has the potential to ignite new fire starts." Scientists say that over the last three decades, climate change has made the western U.S. warmer and drier, which in turn leads to more extreme weather and more frequent and devastating wildfires.