California, Nevada Governors Call for More Federal Aid in Wildfire Battle

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
July 28, 2021 Updated: July 30, 2021

GARDNERVILLE, Nev.—The governors of California and Nevada called for more federal firefighting assistance Wednesday as they toured a region blackened by one of several massive wildfires that have destroyed dozens of homes in the West.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and California Gov. Gavin Newsom stood on ashen ground as they surveyed burned homes and a mountain range of pine trees charred by the Tamarack Fire south of Gardnerville, Nevada, near Topaz Lake.

The Democrats called on the federal government to provide more firefighting resources.

Battling large-scale fires with limited resources, the U.S. Forest Service decided in early July to let dozens of lightning fires burn, including the Tamarack Fire.

Sisolak said more support and firefighters would have prevented the U.S. Forest Service from having to make difficult decisions about where to direct its resources.

“We need help on the federal side. We need more people coming in. We need more resources. We need more air support. We need more boots on the ground,” Sisolak said.

Cooler weather and even rain helped the fight against some of the largest blazes this week but fire officials warned that hotter, drier weather was returning.

The 106-square-mile Tamarack blaze was more than halfway surrounded by containment lines. At least 23 buildings have burned since lightning sparked the fire on July 4.

Evacuation orders for about 2,000 residents on both sides of the state line were lifted early in the week.

Ed and Sonya Amaral returned to their Gardnerville home on Wednesday after being evacuated two weeks ago to find their trees blackened and brittle. The embers scorched nearby homes and an art studio, but spared the Amarals.

The couple believes their home still stands partially due to brush they cleared for a defensible perimeter. When they moved there in October, neighbors told them some of the trees hadn’t burned in two centuries.

“I just told them, ‘Never say never,’” Sonya Amaral said.

They told the governors that they hoped the fires served as a lesson about the importance of fire prevention in forests and neighborhoods.

Tuesday thunderstorms brought rain and cooler, more humid weather that made grass and brush less prone to burning, fire officials said. The chance of thunderstorms with rain, possibly heavy at times, was expected through Friday.

“We’re not doing hand-to-hand combat” on the blaze, Dan Dallas, an incident commander for the fire, said Tuesday evening.

California’s largest blaze, the Dixie Fire, was 23 percent contained but threatening more than 10,000 homes in the region about 175 miles northeast of San Francisco.

The fire had scorched nearly 340 square miles, an area bigger than New York City.

Wednesday’s report on property losses showed 35 structures and 19 minor structures destroyed, and seven other structures damaged.

In neighboring Oregon, the 3-week-old Bootleg Fire has destroyed 161 homes, 247 outbuildings and 342 vehicles in Klamath and Lake counties. It was more than halfway contained after scorching nearly 646 square miles of remote land.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press