Get information and maps for the Beckwourth Complex Fire from the U.S. Forest Service.
Live camera feeds can be seen here.
The Beckwourth Complex Fire 50 miles north of Tahoe is the largest wildfire of the year so far in California, and on Thursday, it became the state’s first megafire of 2021. That’s a wildfire surpassing 100,000 acres.
Megafires used to be rare, but they’re becoming more and more common, especially in California, which has been hit repeatedly by extreme weather events, including heat waves, drought and dry lightning. These humongous fires were rare in California before 2003 — but 17 of the 20 largest fires in the state’s history have occurred since then, according to state data.
“These are the new norms now,” U.S. Forest Service operations section chief Jake Cagle said at a Friday morning operations update, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We used to say ‘unprecedented and historic.’ We’re past that now.”
A finger of the blaze broke through containment lines Thursday and crossed Highway 395 west of the town of Doyle, the Forest Service said.
Firefighters used air and ground suppression to put out flames and prevent spread. The highway was closed temporarily and reopened Friday.
In the southern area of the fire, containment lines from Maddalena, east to the Scott Road, north to Constantia and the community of Doyle are still holding, officials said.
The Beckwourth Complex Fire is a combination of two lightning-caused fires near the community of Beckwourth. The Sugar Fire, which started July 2, was 104,567 acres and 68% contained as of Friday, and the Dotta Fire, ignited June 30, was 594 acres and 99% contained. With the Dotta Fire under control, some are now referring to the complex as the Sugar Fire.
There are 2,471 personnel assigned to the blaze, including 53 crews, 187 engines, 17 helicopters, 44 dozers, 60 water tenders and 6 masticators.
The blaze is burning in steep, rugged country across a landscape that’s water-starved after two consecutive dry winters.
Smoke rises from the Beckwourth Complex Fire at sunset. The Beckwourth Complex Fire continues to grow in California, with smoke reaching into northern Nevada.SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett
Diondray Wiley, a fire behavior analyst working on the Beckwourth Complex, said the combination of the dry vegetation, hot temperatures and often windy conditions are fueling the fire.
Wiley has been forecasting the probability of ignition — new fires starting when sparks fly — and it has been 100% most days, he said.
“That means if I drop 100 matches on the ground, it would start 100 new fires,” he explained. “The fuels [vegetation] are very receptive, very dry. We’re seeing fuel moistures right now that we usually wouldn’t see until mid- to late August.”
This is a fast-moving blaze and officials encourage residents in the area to watch for regular evacuation updates from the following three counties:
– Plumas County: https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/6EB9E0DB3133
– Lassen County: https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/B69B31DD99B6?isMobile=false
– Washoe County: https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/169EBBD0A3AE
A view of a small church saved by firefighters.SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett