UNITED STATES NEWS

Crews are battling ‘fire whirls’ in California’s Mojave Desert

Jul 31, 2023, 10:11 AM | Updated: 8:08 pm

MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE, Calif. (AP) — Crews battled “fire whirls” in California’s Mojave National Preserve this weekend as a massive wildfire crossed into Nevada amid dangerously high temperatures and raging winds.

The York Fire was mapped at roughly 120 square miles (284 square kilometers) on Monday night, with no containment.

The blaze erupted Friday near the remote Caruthers Canyon area of the vast wildland preserve, crossed the state line into Nevada on Sunday and sent smoke further east into the Las Vegas Valley.

A smoky haze blotted out the sun midday on the Las Vegas Strip and obliterated views of mountains surrounding the city and suburbs. Because of low visibility, the Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas reported departure delays of nearly two hours.

A fire whirl — sometimes called a fire tornado — is a “spinning column of fire” that forms when intense heat and turbulent winds combine, according to the National Park Service.

The vortexes — which can be anywhere from a few feet tall to several hundred feet high, with varying rotational speeds — were spotted Sunday on the north end of the York Fire.

“While these can be fascinating to observe they are a very dangerous natural phenomena that can occur during wildfires,” the park service wrote.

The whirls require high temperatures to form. In Searchlight, Nevada — an unincorporated area about 12 miles (19.31 kilometers) from the California border where the fire burned — Monday’s high was 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius), according to the National Weather Service.

Significant portions of the U.S. population have been subject to extreme heat in recent weeks. Worldwide, July has been so steamy thus far that scientists calculate it will be the hottest month ever recorded and likely the warmest to hit human civilization.

Wind-driven flames 20 feet (6 meters) high in some spots charred tens of thousands of acres of blackbrush scrub, pinyon-juniper woodlands and the famous Joshua trees in the New York Mountains in San Bernardino County.

Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said it could take the pinyon-juniper woodlands 200 to 300 years to become “a functional community again,” while the blackbrush scrub and Joshua trees are unlikely to regrow after this catastrophic blaze, which erupted without human intervention.

“It will change the habitat possibly permanently,” Anderson said.

Even more, deer and bighorn sheep could become trapped by the flames, she said. If any manage to survive the blaze, their resources in the newly scorched landscape would be severely limited.

In 2020, the Dome Fire ripped through the preserve, ravaging one of the world’s largest Joshua tree forests. Conservationists, including Anderson, are trying to revitalize the land by planting new trees since the species usually isn’t able to make a comeback naturally after a wildfire.

The desert hasn’t adapted to fires; such blazes are rare because there are few ignition points in the harsh terrain. Generally, most fires in the desert are caused by humans, Anderson said.

The cause of the York Fire remains under investigation, though authorities say it started on private land within the preserve. Other details were not available Monday.

To the southwest, the Bonny Fire burned about 3.6 square miles (9.3 square kilometers) in the rugged hills of Riverside County. The blaze was about 30% contained on Monday.

More than 1,300 people were ordered to evacuate their homes Saturday near the community of Aguanga that is home to horse ranches and wineries. However, the fire didn’t grow on Monday, and some were allowed back home.

One firefighter was injured in the blaze.

Gusty winds and the chance of thunderstorms into Tuesday will heighten the risk of renewed growth, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.

United States News

Associated Press

Search of Gilgo Beach serial killing suspect’s home on Long Island enters its 5th day

MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Investigators in the New York City suburbs continue to scour the home of a Manhattan architect charged in a string of slayings known as the Gilgo Beach killings. Friday marked the fifth straight day of the renewed search by state and local police of Rex Heuermann’s dilapidated, single-family home in […]

18 minutes ago

Associated Press

Defense secretary tells US Naval Academy graduates they will lead ‘through tension and uncertainty’

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told U.S. Naval Academy graduates Friday that they will be leading future sailors and Marines “through tension and uncertainty,” noting how two graduates from last year were just aboard the USS Carney in the Red Sea, where they helped shoot down missiles and drones. The Navy has […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

American soldier arrested in Russia over an alleged theft will remain in custody, state media report

An American soldier arrested in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok on charges of stealing lost an appeal against his detention and will remain in custody, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Friday, citing court officials. The soldier, identified by court officials as Gordon Black, will remain in custody at least until July 2, […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: Wall Street futures up, but on track for first losing week in a month

Wall Street rose to modest gains before the open Friday as markets try to claw back some of this week’s losses. Futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.3% before the bell, while futures for the Dow ticked up 0.1%. A flurry of mixed results this week from big U.S. retailers effectively signals the end of […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

More severe weather moves through Midwest as Iowa residents clean up tornado damage

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Several tornadoes were reported in Iowa and Illinois as storms downed power lines and trees on Friday, just after a deadly twister devastated one small town. The large storm system began overnight in Nebraska before traveling across central Iowa and into Illinois. Strong, straight-line wind gusts of up to 80 […]

13 hours ago

Associated Press

Hunter Biden arrives at court for a final hearing before his June 3 gun trial

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Hunter Biden is back in court on Friday for the final hearing before he’s expected to stand trial on federal firearms charges in Delaware as his father’s reelection campaign unfolds. President Joe Biden’s son didn’t speak to reporters as he followed his lawyers into the Wilmington courthouse. He’s charged with lying […]

14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Crews are battling ‘fire whirls’ in California’s Mojave Desert