Sept. 20 (UPI) — A new wildfire broke out in California on Friday and had burned 91,000 acres of land, and some firefighters went into isolation this weekend after being exposed to COVID-19 amid record-breaking fires that have burned up and down the West Coast.
A fire dubbed the Bobcat Fire or Juniper Hills fire, which broke out Sept. 6, intensified amid high winds Friday in the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County.
By Saturday the fire had burned nearly 100,000 acres and was threatening desert communities near Highway 138 and taking several homes in foothills areas.
It was 15% contained as of Saturday morning.
It’s the most recent in a series of fires that have burned across the west since August.
Several California fires — the LNU Lightning Complex fire, the SCU Lightning Complex fire and the CZU LAugust Lightning Complex fire — were reported 98% contained as of Saturday.
But the west continues to burn, with the novel coronavirus placing additional strain on firefighting resources in the Northwest this weekend.
A member of a resupply crew aiding firefighters in the Pacific Northwest tested positive for coronavirus this week, sending a team in charge of firefighting efforts into temporary isolation.
The New York Times reported Saturday that members of a fire management team that was deployed in Carson, Wash., about 50 miles northeast of Portland, were placed into isolation as fire commanders attempted to determine who had been exposed to the infected supply crew member.
“Fire season is already an unbelievable stress — on resources and the firefighters,” said Hillary Franz, Washington’s commissioner of public lands, Friday. “You add in a deadly pandemic, it makes it all the more challenging.”
In April, U.S. Forest Service chief Vicki Christiansen ordered a new strategy for fighting wildfires in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
That strategy included a renewed focus on using local firefighting crews and a strategy of rapid containment intended to prevent fires from growing to sizes that require bigger crews — but the latter strategy has not prevented a record-breaking wildfire season that has destroyed thousands of structures and burned millions of acres of land.
Fires have also killed 26 people across the region.
More than 20,000 firefighters have been dispatched across the West Coast.