Firefighters battle blazes across California as hot, dry weather raises concerns

A firefighter sprays water from a hose
Pasadena Fire Capt. Art Dominguez hits hot spots from the Tumbleweed fire with water Monday morning near Gorman, Calif.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Hot and dry conditions in California are worrying fire and weather officials as crews work to contain multiple fires statewide.

As of Monday, the Tumbleweed fire in the Gorman area, which started over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, had burned 1,000 acres of brush and was only about 10% contained, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Although the fire can be seen from Interstate 5, the department does not currently have plans to close the area. The fire has not damaged any structures, and no buildings appeared to be in danger, a department spokesman said.

“We’re trying to increase that percentage of containment to make sure the fire doesn’t advance or jump out of the area that it’s already burned,” Capt. Ron Haralson said.

Haralson said Monday that favorable weather conditions allowed firefighters get a better handle on the fire overnight. There were 200 fire personnel working the blaze. But Haralson said there’s still concern over temperatures increasing, especially since brush and other vegetation are “extremely dry.”


The National Weather Service said warmer- and drier-than-usual conditions will continue in southwestern California this week, with even higher temperatures by week’s end. The valleys and mountains could see highs up to 112 degrees by the weekend.

In far Northern California, fire crews are working to contain the Lava fire, Salt fire, and Tennant fire, which have forced the evacuation of thousands of people and once again smothered large stretches of the state in thick smoke.

The Salt fire, south of the unincorporated community of Lakehead in Shasta County, had burned 11,693 acres and was only 20% contained as of Monday. There are nearly 750 fire personnel working in the area, and evacuation orders are still in place.

The Lava fire, burning northeast of Weed, is 24,974 acres and was 70% contained on Monday. The fire, the most destructive in California this year, was sparked by lightning on June 24. Officials said 45 structures have been destroyed, including 12 single-family homes. They noted that Highway 97 from Weed to Dorris and the Everett Memorial Highway are still closed.

‘This fire stayed very small,’ said Adrienne Freeman, spokeswoman for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest about the Lava fire. ‘Until it didn’t.’

July 3, 2021

Highway 97 actually crosses the paths of two fires — Lava and Tennant, both in Siskiyou County in the rugged forest terrain northeast of Mt. Shasta. The Tennant fire, near the tiny community of Bray, had burned 10,541 acres and was 51% contained. Fire officials said in an announcement on the federal Incident Information System website that an increase in southwesterly winds was expected Tuesday, “which will result in a potential for critical fire weather conditions due to critically dry and gusty conditions.”


Brad Schaaf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Medford, Ore., who is monitoring the Lava and Tennant fires, said there will be an increase in winds in the area in the next couple of days, but they will be accompanied by cooler weather after the last several days of highs in the upper 90s and low 100s. But Schaaf said the break will be short-lived.

“We’re continuing a period of hot, dry and breezy conditions, and this will continue to make fire spread a little bit more likely over the next several days,” Schaaf said.