“For this community, it’s devastating,” Doyle Fire Protection District Chief Kathy Catron told CNN.
Many residents forced to flee their homes have been staying with friends and family or in shelters while evacuation orders remain in place, Catron said.
The Beckwourth Complex Fire is just one of many fires burning in the region.
“While wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year,” Cal Fire said. “Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend.”
Gusty winds fuel flames
The US Forest Service, which is leading the battle against the Beckwourth Complex Fire, said it couldn’t confirm the number of structures lost in Doyle because it’s still too dangerous for a damage assessment team to enter.
Kimberly Kaschalk, a spokeswoman with the US Forest Service, said unusually dry conditions and numerous lightning strikes in the area were a factor in the fire’s growth.
CNN Meteorologist Michael Guy said Doyle’s location on the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevadas leaves it open to downslope winds from the mountains, meaning gusty winds are common. The wind combined with arid conditions is fueling flames. Winds in the area will be picking up Wednesday afternoon and last through Thursday night with gusts up to 25 mph, Guy said, noting it could hamper firefighting efforts.
Kaschalk told CNN officials are doing everything they can to keep residents and firefighters safe. There have been no reported deaths from the Beckwourth Complex fire and only a few minor injuries as of Tuesday.
“I’m sure it’s frustrating for everyone,” Kaschalk said.
Vicky Anderson, an employee at Goodwin’s General Store in the nearby town of Chilcoot, told CNN the wildfires will “affect us tremendously the rest of the summer and for years to come.”
Anderson said flames from the Beckwourth Complex Fire had surrounded Frenchman Lake, a popular reservoir in the area, and she feared it would impact tourism.
State Senator Brian Dahle, who represents the district near the Nevada border, said “extreme weather conditions have led to erratic fire behavior making suppression challenging.”.