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Wildfires

Bizarro Earth

Winter wildfire weirdness continues as warnings spread to chilly Arkansas

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Forecasters say Arkansas is still at risk for wildfires despite chilly temperatures with subzero wind chill values in some areas.

A red flag warning is in effect in Carroll, Benton, Washington and Madison counties. The National Weather Service says northwest Arkansas will see strong and gusty winds of up to 35 mph on Friday, along with low humidity values of 15 to 25 percent.

Forecasters warn that the dry vegetation and windy weather will combine to create dangerous wildfire conditions through Friday afternoon.

Thirty-two Arkansas counties now have burn bans in effect, and the Arkansas Forestry Commission says much of the state is at a high risk of wildfire danger.

Crusader

Cross all that remains standing amid California wildfire that destroyed 1,700 acres

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© Ryland Talamo, CBN News
Amid the flames caused by wildfires in Southern California near Azusa Pacific University stands a 10- to 12-foot cross on top of a mountain peak
Wildfires in Southern California near Azusa Pacific University have claimed at least 1,700 acres and destroyed at least six homes.

But amid the flames, one iconic structure is still standing.

A 10- to 12-foot cross on top of a mountain peak in the Azusa mountains is visible for miles. The cross was originally erected in 2007, and many local residents often hike up to the lookout spot where it stands overlooking the San Gabriel Valley.

This week, flames ripped through the area and the cross appeared to be lost, according to early local reports. But the wood structure, which has become a fixture on Azusa Peak, survived unscathed.

"Everything in the mountains is burnt and gone, including the "A" for Azusa. After houses were burnt down, hundreds evacuated and the city covered in smoke, there was one thing left, not only standing, but untouched. God is good, God is powerful and God is worthy of all praise," one local person posted on Facebook.

Phoenix

Fire devours historic Norwegian village, 90 people hospitalized

 A fire blasts over a house, destroying many of the famed 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses
© AFP Photo / NTB / Arne Veum Norway
A fire blasts over a house, destroying many of the famed 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses in the village Laerdal, southern Norway, on January 19, 2014.
Ninety people have been treated in hospital and 30 properties burnt to the ground in a massive fire in the western Norwegian village Laerdal, on Sognefjord fjord listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Scores of people have been evacuated from the heritage village of 1,150 as around 100 personal from the emergency services battle to put out the flames. Police also fear that gas canisters at a nearby industrial facility may explode and the area has been cordoned off.

The work of firefighters is being hampered by strong winds and police told Norwegian TV they were trying to bring in a helicopter to help contain the fire but that it was being delayed by media drones, which were operating in the area.

Frog

Winter wildfire destroys homes near Los Angeles

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© Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
A helicopter makes a water drop on the Colby Fire in Glendora, California
A fast-moving California wildfire, started accidentally by three campers, roared out of control in foothills above Los Angeles on Thursday, destroying five homes and forcing some 3,600 residents to flee, fire and law enforcement officials said.

The wind-whipped blaze began before dawn in the Angeles National Forest north of Glendora, about 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

By mid-morning, the so-called Colby Fire had blackened more than 1,700 acres of drought-parched brush and vegetation, Los Angeles County fire officials said. A thick pall of black smoke hung over eastern Los Angeles County, stretching west over the Pacific Ocean.

But as winds diminished and temperatures cooled later in the day some 700 firefighters, aided by eight fixed-wing aircraft and seven helicopters, were able to keep the flames from advancing any further.

Comment: Wildfires in winter? Right after 'polar vortexes'?! What's going ON with this weather?!


Red Flag

Small wildfires sweep across Southern California

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© AP Photo/Coast Guard Station Rio Vista, Petty Officer Loumania Stewart
n this image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows a brush fire on Kimball Island in the San Joaquin River, Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014.
As Santa Ana winds made moisture plunge, plant life wither and wildfire danger soar, Southern California firefighters pounced on several small blazes before they could surge, though another day of dryness awaited.

The Santa Anas, generated by strong surface pressure anchored over the West, were predicted to remain at advisory levels until noon Wednesday. Red-flag warnings for fire danger were expected to remain in effect until Wednesday evening.

Tuesday's wildfires also struck an unusually arid and windy Northern California, where a fire on the small Kimball Island between San Francisco and Sacramento engulfed at least one of the island's 20 buildings and was threatening others, Solano County fire dispatcher Robyn Rains said.

CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that firefighters say the latest round of fires in the state is the direct result of severe drought conditions throughout the West Coast that have extended fire season longer than normal.

"The lack of rain and the unseasonably dry conditions just makes fire conditions just as bad as in the middle of fire season," said Scott Bahrenfuss of the Rio Vista Fire Department.

The U.S. Coast Guard was helping with evacuations, and Delta Fire Protection District crews had difficulty getting to the blaze because the site is was only accessible by boat.

Attention

Wildfire shuts down Interstate 80 in Nebraska

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High winds Tuesday pushed a wildfire onto Interstate 80 in central Nebraska and toppled a tractor trailer in western Iowa, tying up interstate traffic in both cases.

Meanwhile, forecasters said to be prepared for "even stronger winds," issuing a high wind watch for Thursday.

The wildfire, whipped by 30 mph winds, closed the westbound lanes of Interstate 80 near Aurora for about one hour.

Area firefighters fought the large grass fire, which started on the north side of the interstate near Hampton at about 2:40 p.m., according to the Nebraska State Patrol office in Grand Island.

Westbound lanes of the interstate were closed at the Hampton interchange and traffic was briefly detoured. Eastbound traffic continued to move slowly through the area.

The fire was brought under control and the westbound lanes were re-opened at about 3:40 p.m., a State Patrol dispatcher said.

Patrol Lt. Bill Keeling said the grass fire was big enough to obscure visibility in the westbound lanes of the interstate. He did not know what caused it.

Comment: See also: Take cover! Meteor fireballs rain down across U.S. - Outbreaks of wildfires reported


Phoenix

256 wildfires suddenly break out in Victoria, Australia amid heatwave

fire ban sign
© Unknown
Crews have worked throughout the night extinguishing hundreds of fires in the driest parts of Victoria sparked by dry lightning from electrical storms.

CFA state duty officer Scott Purdy told 3AW radio crews responded to 256 fires between 5pm and 12am.

The Mallee and Wimmera received the most strikes as electrical storms hit the region and continued to other parts of the state including the central Victorian towns of Castlemaine, Daylesford, Woodend, Macedon, and metropolitan Melbourne.

There are still 22 fires burning in the Mallee. Waterbombing helicopters are monitoring the region and central Victoria to identify strikes before conditions worsen later in the week.

The CFA fears more dry lightning, which means lightning with not enough rain to combat its effect, will hit the state today.

The CFA battled several grass fires yesterday, with the most serious at Kangaroo Ground which is now under control.

There is a total fire ban across the state.

Comment: Dry lightning? Maybe. But then there's also this coming down from overhead:

Breaking News: NSW, Australia - Meteor spotted, 12 January 2014


Extinguisher

Perth, Western Australia: Wildfire razes 27 homes, one man dead

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© AP Photo/Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Evan Collis
In this image released by Department of Fire and Emergency Services, a wildfire burn trees and bushland along a roadside in Perth Hills in western Australia on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014.
A fast-moving wildfire destroyed at least 27 homes in western Australia's Perth, officials said Monday, with one man dying as he prepared for the approaching inferno.

The blaze, thought to have been started by a fallen power line in the city's wooded outskirts on Sunday, was fanned by hot, strong gusts that saw 20-metre (66-foot) flames tear through residential streets.

"It has been confirmed that 27 homes have been lost at this stage, but this number is expected to increase as damage assessments continue throughout the day," Western Australia state's fire and emergency services department said.

The ambulance service said a man, aged 62, had died after collapsing on the roof of his house as he prepared for the oncoming blaze.

"St John('s Ambulance) responded to the incident but was unable to access the roof," it said.

"Despite assistance from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services in getting onto the roof, the man passed away at the scene."

Hundreds of residents fled their homes for evacuation centres and were anxiously awaiting news Monday. Some said they'd had only seconds to escape.

Meteor

From polar vortex to wildfires in one week! Fires break out across Oklahoma

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© Unknown
Wildfire burns over 1200 acres in Logan County, OK
Several outbuildings were destroyed in a large wildfire that swept through Logan County Sunday afternoon.

Oklahoma's Wildland Task Force was deployed as local fire crews battled flames than spanned across an estimated 1,200 acres near County Road 73 and Post Road.

Guthrie Fire Chief, Eric Harlow says more than 20 agencies assisted in the effort to bring flames under control. Two dozen homes were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Harlow says strong winds caused hot spots from a Saturday fire in Logan County to flare up into a massive fire around noon Sunday.

Clouds of smoke could be seen from miles away, strong winds gusting more than 30 miles per hour swept the fire within five feet of Ralph Hanley's home.

"We came out here and all this here had been burned off," said Hanley, pointing to his backyard, "our neighbors had come over and fought the fire to keep it away from the house."

Comment: First fireballs, then an eruption of wildfires... Coincidence?


Phoenix

Chile authorities issue health alert after forest fire smoke blankets Santiago

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© Claudio Reyes/AFP/Getty Images
Smoke fills the air above Santiago as wildfires rage.
President announces measures to combat poor air quality and curb spread of diseases transmitted by rodents fleeing the fires

Smoke from dozens of nearby forest fires have blanketed the Chilean capital, leading authorities to issue a health alert.

The fast-spreading fires reached a peak over the weekend. They have caused more than $100m in property losses and forced the 7 million residents of Santiago to breathe the worst air in 15 years.

On Wednesday, strong winds carried a thick blanket of smoke over Santiago, where 40% of Chileans live. Firefighters have been struggling with the blazes as the wind has reignited several of them.

President Sebastian Piñera announced the health alert for four regions at a press conference late on Wednesday. Piñera said the more than 70 forest fires over the past weeks had affected more than 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of land.