Beckwourth Complex Fire doubles its size in 24 hours

A fast-burning wildfire in northern California has more than doubled in size over the past day, charring thousands of acres in isolated forest land amid high temperatures.

The Beckwourth complex – which includes both the Dotta and Sugar fires – burned more than 55,000 acres in Plumas and Lassen counties on Saturday, up from about 25,000 acres on Friday, according to the US Forest Service.

Strong north-south winds and extremely dry fuels contributed to the rapid spread of the blaze, said Lisa Cox, the Forest Service’s public information officer. Nearly 1,300 people concentrated on Saturday to prevent the flames from reaching major populated areas, including near Highway 395 at the Lassen-Plumas border and in the Chilcoot region.

“With how incredibly dry and responsive fuel types are, it doesn’t take much for point fires to set in,” Cox said.

Lightning set off the fires in Dotta and Sugar last week, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that the Sugar Blaze exploded as swirling winds carried embers to the northeast. Similar winds are expected to return on Saturday and Sunday, Cox said, potentially causing point fires a mile north of the main body of the blaze.

Meanwhile, crews expect temperatures of around 100 degrees in the area, with wind gusts of around 20 mph. The region – like much of the rest of the state – is subject to an excessive heat warning until Monday.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for all campgrounds and homes near Frenchman Lake and near Dixie Valley Road, as well as all homes north of Highway 70 between Beckwourth-Genesee Road and the county line, according to the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office.

Containment lines in the Holly area, near where the fire started, however, look “really good,” Cox said. Even so, residents of all neighboring areas should be prepared to evacuate and sign up for alerts with their respective sheriff’s office.

Containment fell to around 8% after the massive growth on Friday.

“Because of how quickly this fire is unfolding, the better you can keep up with evacuations, the safer you will be,” Cox said.

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