PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Many Californians were getting a brief respite from smoky skies Sunday and a handful of national parks reopened over the weekend, even as major wildfires continued to rage across the Golden State.
Westerly winds were pushing smoke toward the east and allowing people to get a view of clear skies that haven’t been present for weeks in some areas as millions of acres have burned. Smoke is moving through the Great Plains, according to the National Weather Service.
“What benefits us is harming others. Someone has to be downwind,” said Brandt Maxwell, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “We’re doing better now, but we’re certainly far from perfect because there are so many fires and some areas still have a lot of smoke to deal with.”
He added the break may be short-lived and smoky skies could develop as early as Tuesday.
Fire conditions allowed the U.S. Forest Service to ease restrictions on nine of California’s national forests after all 18 were shut down Sept. 9.
Accessibility varies and visitors should contact each location for specifics, according to the forest service.
Full closures remain for the other nine national forests.
The closed parks are close to some of the worst of California’s 27 major fires that were burning as of Sunday.
Twenty-six people have died and 3.4 million acres have burned since the blazes began in August, Cal Fire said. More than 7,800 fires big and small have broken out and more than 6,500 structures have been destroyed.
Deceased firefighter’s name withheld as El Dorado Fire grows slightly
Authorities have not released the name of a firefighter who died battling a 22,489-acre fire burning in San Bernardino County.
The firefighter died Thursday fighting the El Dorado Fire, which sparked Sept. 5 near the city of Yucaipa. The exact cause of death is under investigation.
Fire officials would not confirm the accuracy of social media posts that identified the firefighter over the weekend.
By Sunday, the El Dorado Fire had grown slightly by 418 acres and 59% of its perimeter was contained.
Although it’s far from California’s largest fire, it’s received a significant amount of national attention ever since investigators identified its cause.
They said it was sparked by a pyrotechnic device a family used during a gender reveal. The family dialed 911 and tried to extinguish the fire themselves before fighters arrived as flames quickly spread.
Authorities said an investigation was expected to last at least weeks and any charges would depend on damages and injuries.
There was no immediate word on how the firefighter’s death would affect the investigation.
Officials target Oct. 30 for full containment of Bobcat Fire
The Bobcat Fire, which is Southern California’s largest wildfire, grew to 99,428 acres, an increase of 8,411 acres since Saturday.
It was ignited Sept. 6 in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa, about 20 miles east of Los Angeles, and was 15% contained as of Sunday morning.
Numerous mountain communities remained under evacuation orders, structures have been damaged in the Antelope Valley and further losses were expected, according to Vince Pena, unified incident commander with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Containment lines are on the southern edge of the fire and evacuation warnings were lifted for Arcadia, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Duarte, and Bradbury.
Full containment may happen Oct. 30, according to fire officials.
Creek Fire: Conditions improve, some evacuation orders lifted
In central California, the Creek Fire had grown to 278,368 acres in Fresno and Madera counties and was 25% contained as of Sunday morning.
Firefighters said “quiet weather” was expected over the next several days, which could help efforts to contain the blaze, although winds in the afternoons gusting to 25 mph could create problems.
Cal Fire said the blaze would be most active in the Whisky Falls, East Fork Chiquito Creek, Norris Trailhead, Cattle Mountain, and Pine Flat areas, and the blaze could progress toward Timber Knob and Junction Butte.
On Saturday, some evacuation orders in Fresno County were downgraded to evacuation warnings.
North Complex Fire: Aircraft can rejoin the battle
Favorable weather conditions will allow aircraft to again be used in the battle against the North Complex Fire, which has been burning since Aug. 18 in Butte and Plumas counties, north of Sacramento.
Containment was at 62% for the fire, which has burned 291,200 acres in the Plumas National Forest as of Sunday morning.
As of Sunday, the blaze had led to 15 fatalities and 1,654 buildings and structures have been destroyed.
Evacuation orders and advisories are still in place for communities in Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties.
August Complex: Containment expected Nov. 15 for state’s largest blaze ever
About 2,000 firefighters remain at the scene of the August Complex Fire in Mendocino and Humbolt counties in Northern California, which has been identified as California’s largest wildfire on record.
Sparked by lightning on Aug. 17, it has burned 836,871 acres in Northern California as of Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Firefighters have contained 34% of its perimeter.
Officials are targeting Nov. 15 for full containment.
The fire is burning in the Mendocino National Forest and is comprised of the Elkhorn, Hopkins, Willow, Vinegar and Doe fires. At least one fatality has been reported.
Regional closures were extended Saturday to the area near Lake Pillsbury.
COVID, hurricanes, wildfires, politics:2020 is an American nightmare that’s wearing us out
Puerto Rico residents say they answered 2020 census:The government says otherwise — over and over again.