Weekend storms could be a mixed blessing for crews battling California’s largest wildfire, with the potential to make things worse for firefighting efforts and potentially worsen the situation, according to officials with the U.S. Forest Service.
Officials warned of a potential for “devastating impacts” from strong wind gusts and heavy rain across Northern California, with some forecasts calling for gusts over 100 mph.
“It could be a mixed blessing,” said Greg Thomas, assistant chief of the U.S. Forest Service’s fire management division. “You could cause more injuries trying to fight the fire and at the same time it could worsen the fire because you have these huge winds.”
“We’re talking about a fire that is now 15 percent contained and probably one of our largest fires in state history,” said Tom Williams, assistant chief chief of the department of wildlife, ocean and coastal resources.
California’s three largest fires have burned more than 1.5 million acres and forced the evacuation of more than 800,000 residents.
The Camp Creek fire was 80 percent contained Friday. The other two were 55 percent to 65 percent contained.
“We are going to get some rains. We have been getting rain and some of that is going to continue,” Williams said Friday evening.
“The rain will have a positive impact on both firefighters and nature,” Thomas said.
The rain could help firefighters knock down embers and keep embers flying out of the flames, said Thomas.
“It’s going to help us keep the fire more contained,” said Williams.
Rain is not forecast for Saturday, and winds of up to 60 mph were expected across Northern California on Saturday.
The National Weather Service’s forecast called for winds to gust to 65 mph Saturday afternoon before coming down to 60 mph by Sunday morning.
Heavy rain will continue into Monday.
Forecasters said heavy rain would likely move into Northern California on Monday, then by Tuesday into the Los Angeles area.
The California drought began last summer and is considered one of the worst on record in the state, according to the Drought Monitor Network. The state Department of Water Resources reported a water supply emergency in the state last week.
The drought is blamed for a significant drop in fish populations, the collapse of the almond crop in the mid- and southern San Joaquin Valley and a record-breaking drought in