Dozens and dozens of wildfires are currently burning across California, Oregon, and other western states, confirming that this will go down as a terrible fire season in the historical record despite record rains this past winter that had forecasters believing we might have a mild year for wildfires. One of those, the Railroad Fire just outside Yosemite National Park, was pushed by winds from a thunderstorm this week into a grove of 2,700-year-old giant sequoias known as the Nelder Grove an area of about 1,500 acres in the Sierra National Forest.
As the LA Times reports, the fire is now 43 percent contained, and covers 11,600 acres.
Giant sequoias are resilient and known to withstand forest fires, and as ABC 30 reports, it's unclear yet whether any trees suffered any serious damage. Video from the are shows firefighters wrapping a giant trunk with protective foil, and another image shows part of a scorched trunk.
A large fire burning along the picturesque Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, which is now at 50 square miles, was allegedly started by a group of "giggling teens" who were tossing fireworks and smoke bombs into a dry canyon along some hiking trails on Saturday.
The Washington Post reports that police have interviewed one 15-year-old boy and some other teens were seen by multiple witnesses tossing the fireworks, with one of the teens shooting video on his phone while a couple of onlooking girls laughed.
The Oregonian spoke with witness Liz FitzGerald of Portland who said she saw "this shorter kid lob this smoke bomb down into the canyon. I was probably 4 feet away from him. I said, 'Do you realize how dangerous this is?'"
There was already smoke from could have been an existing wildfire, or one begun by a different firework, and FitzGerald says she encountered some other hikers who said they would "rat them out" to authorities. She then says she encountered the teens a second time on the trail as a fire was obviously emanating from the area along Eagle Creek where she'd seen them throwing fireworks. "My adrenaline is through the roof," FitzGerald said to the Oregonian. "I said, 'Do you realize you just started a forest fire?' And the kid who had been filming with his cellphone said, 'But what are we supposed to do about it now?' And I said, 'Call the fricking fire department!'"
Video below apparently shows state police questioning the teens shortly thereafter.
As of Wednesday night, the fire, called the Eagle Creek Fire, looked like this, and it is only 5 percent contained:
As the Associated Press reports, Oregonians are especially heartbroken over this fire, because this "federally protected scenic area holds North America's largest concentration of waterfalls and is home to 800 wildflower species," and is a popular summer tourist destination.
Meanwhile, this is just one of many fires currently raging across the West. As ABC News explains, in addition to twenty blazes currently burning in California, there's a 68-square-mile fire near Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, a fire threatening 200 homes in a Utah canyon, and a fire in Montana that's threatening the state's oldest Amish community.
The satellite image below from NASA shows smoke billowing from the dozens of fires across Oregon, Washington, Northern California, Idaho, and Montana on Tuesday.
As of today, a week-old fire burning in Trinity County in Northern California, near Junction City, has grown to almost 17,000 acres. It's called the Helena Fire, and as the Redding Record-Searchlight reports "weary" firefighters were pummeled with heavy rain and thunderstorms this morning, but the fire is still only 30 percent contained.