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Thu, 02 Feb 2023
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Record Heat Wave Fans Deadly Fires in Russia

© Alex Aminev, Reuters

A security guard walks near grass, which was lit on fire by severe heat, at Khodynskoe pole aviation museum in Moscow July 29.
A record-breaking heat wave continued to send forest fires sweeping across parts of Russia today, destroying villages and leaving thousands homeless and up to 23 people dead, officials said.

More than 200,000 acres have been engulfed in the past few days, fueled by strong winds and a severe drought. Moscow's temperature hit 100 degrees on Thursday, the highest since measurements began 130 years ago. The city today faces severe thunderstorms.

In reaction to the anger expressed by villagers around the city of Nizhny Novgorod, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin canceled meetings in the capital and visited Verkhnava Vereva, some 300 miles east of Moscow.

Arrow Down

Five Killed as Wildfires Sweep Central Russia

© Mikhail Voskresensky/Reuters
Men walk in front of a burning building outside the town of Vyksa, some 150 km (93 miles) southwest of the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod, July 29, 2010.
Forest fires swept across central Russia on Friday, killing at least five people and forcing the evacuation of thousands during the hottest summer since records began 130 years ago, officials said.

Fanned by strong winds, raging fires ripped through woods and fields already scorched by the heatwave, complicating the efforts of firefighters.

"We don't know where to go," said Galina Shibanova, 52, standing outside the charred remains of her family home in the town of Maslovka in the Voronezh region, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Moscow.

"We called the emergency services, and not one person answered the phone," she said, adding at least 50 homes had been destroyed.

Cloud Lightning

Lightning Sparks New Wildfires Across Alaska

© AP Photo
A barrage of lightning strikes across Interior Alaska sparked a handful of new fires on Friday, including a fast-growing blaze near Stevens Village.

The Pat Creek Fire, about 12 miles north of the Yukon River village, has exploded in size since it was detected late Friday afternoon. Fire information officer Sarah Saarloos said the blaze has "definitely grown a lot" since it was mapped at 325 acres on Saturday morning, although the size estimate hadn't been updated.

Gusty winds and dry fuels in the area contributed to the rapid growth, despite a heavy response by firefighters.

Less than 24 hours after it was reported, Saarloos said about 160 personnel were working on the fire, including 32 smokejumpers and five 20-person crews. An incident command center has been established in Stevens Village.


US: California Fire grows to more than 122,000 acres; officials hope for improved conditions

firefighter Thomas Rindge
© Wally Skalij / LA Times
Los Angeles firefighter Thomas Rindge takes a break from battling the Station fire in La Crescenta Monday
The Station fire grew to more than 122,000 acres overnight and continued to burn out of control despite some signs of improving weather conditions.

The massive blaze, which has burned more than 50 structures, killed two firefighters and caused thousands of evacuations, grew by about 15,000 acres over the last 12 hours. That's a smaller rate of growth than Sunday or Monday, but officials are still on guard.

[Updated at 7:20 a.m.: At a briefing this morning, officials said they were growing more optimistic about the fire. They said firefighters were set backfires overnight in areas of Glendale, Tujunga and the Santa Clara ridge. More moisture in the air was slowing the blaze. Although temperatures are cooling, officials said they worried about the possibility of gusty winds and dry lightning. No new structures were burned overnight. The fire is 5% contained, but officials expect that number to grow significantly today.]

The fire this morning was bearing down on neighborhoods in Tujunga, where homes have been evacuated.


Alberta fights 22 out-of-control wildfires

Edmonton -- Some 480 firefighters in the western Canadian province of Alberta were battling at least 22 out-of-control wildfires Tuesday, officials said.

Dry weather conditions, lightning strikes and sparks from campfires were among the causes of the fires, the largest of which was burning near Fort McMurray, 270 miles northeast of Edmonton, the Edmonton Journal reported.

That fire had consumed more than 5,600 acres by Tuesday morning, officials said.

Various highways were closed throughout the province as flames approached or smoke reduced visibility to zero, the report said.

Cloud Lightning

US: Oregon blasted with 24,000 bolts of lightning

lightning Albany Oregon
© phtogirl
While many of Oregon's forest protection districts have not formally entered wildfire season, Nature made an unofficial declaration of its own during the past week. A barrage of more than 24,000 lightning strikes ignited fires across the central and southwestern regions of the state. The Oregon Department of Forestry's firefighters and private forest landowner resources have been busy extinguishing the fires.

In the Oregon Department of Forestry's (ODF) Southwest Oregon District, 32 lightning-caused fires have been reported, with the largest about five acres.

"This one occurred in the Applegate drainage," ODF's Greg Alexander said. "On the first day of the storms, it was very dry, and then we had some moisture in the following days."

He said the district has experienced lightning daily from May 29 to the present. Reports of fire continue to trickle in, with three new ones detected on Wednesday.

Cloud Lightning

Oregon, US: Lightning starts additional fires

Lightning storms have sparked more than 100 new fires on the Willamette and Umpqua national forests since Saturday, with more lightning forecast through today.

About 75 of those fires are on the Willamette National Forest and all were initially pegged at less than an acre. Judith McHugh, spokeswoman for the Willamette, said crews and equipment are being sent to the fires but acknowledged that there are too many to attack all at once.


Lightning Sparks New Fires in British Columbia, Canada

Lightning ignited 22 new fires in the Prince George Fire Centre yesterday and more are expected due to the continued risk of lightning.

Additional fire fighting crews from around the province have arrived in the region to help with existing fires and expected lightning-caused fires. Two additional unit crews, comprising a total of 40 firefighters, are available for sustained action on larger fires. Five additional three-person initial attack crews are also standing by to respond to smaller fires and new fire starts.


Florida, US: Lightning starts fires in Clay, Nassau

Firefighters are straining to put out a rash of wildfires sparked by lightning in Nassau and Clay counties.

Just days after putting out a 105-acre wildfire near Cedar Point and Pumpkin Hill roads in Nassau County, the state's Division of Forestry battled at least three fires over a total of about 30 acres Wednesday and Thursday. Lightning caused each of the fires, said Annaleasa Winter, a wildfire mitigation specialist for the Forestry Division.

Those come after lightning caused six fires over about 55 acres Tuesday in Clay County.

Cloud Lightning

US: Firefighters keep wary eye on California thunderstorms

Junction City, CA - Scattered showers forecast for California's northern mountains Sunday are unlikely to extinguish wildfires that still threaten homes and could bring more lightning to the charred region, fire officials said.

The weather system is not expected to bring enough rain to have any effect on several huge blazes that have burned for nearly a month, said Pete Munoa, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A bigger concern is thunderstorms predicted to accompany the system.

But fire officials said cooler temperatures mean lightning strikes don't pose as much of a threat as they did a month ago, when storms sparked nearly 2,100 fires that have burned almost 1 million acres.

"The weather pattern, if it holds the way it is now, we should be able to get a foothold around these fires," Munoa said.

In the rural town of Junction City, residents were under mandatory evacuation orders for a third day Sunday as flames crept across the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The month-old fire had spread to nearly 87 square miles by Sunday and was 49 percent contained.