Dozens of wildfires tore across wide swaths of Alaska, California, Colorado and other western states Wednesday, with meteorologists warning of more blazes due to strong winds, dry conditions and low humidity.
About 70 fires are now consuming around 630,000 acres, from Alaska — where 19 large blazes were reported — to California, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, where at least six wildfires continue to burn in each state, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Officials say there has been a decrease in the amount of acreage burning because some fires are being contained.
More than 13,000 fire personnel are battling the blazes across the region, Jennifer Jones, spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center told CNN.
The risk of new fires throughout the drought-stricken Western US remains high amid the expected use of fireworks by revelers over the Fourth of July holiday.
Ed Delgaldo, the center’s national program manager for predictive services, said in a video on the agency’s website that significant drought conditions across the Four Corners region — the southwestern corner of Colorado, southeastern corner of Utah, northeastern corner of Arizona, and northwestern corner of New Mexico — have persisted heading into the peak summer months.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for all of Utah because of the wildfire threat.
Strong winds and low humidity is elevating the risk of new fires across the West and threatening the spread of active ones, according to CNN meteorologist Haley Brink.
The Spring Creek fire is one of the largest ever in Colorado, devouring more than 94,000 acres by early Wednesday, according to Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.
More than 100 homes have been destroyed during the fire, which also has forced evacuations from more than 2,000 homes in the southern part of the state since last Wednesday, CNN affiliate KCNC reported.
In addition, hundreds of central Colorado residents were unable to dial 911 on Tuesday because of a Verizon and Charter phone outage attributed to the fire, the station reported.
On Saturday, Jesper Joergensen, 52, was arrested on arson charges linked to the Spring Creek fire, the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office said.
Joergensen, who is not a US citizen, will remain in detention until he has put up bond or has completed all judicial processes, after which he will be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. CNN was unable to contact Joergensen or determine whether he has an attorney.
Matt Booth told KCNC that their family’s historic summer home in La Veta, Colorado had been reduced to rubble in the fire.
“Complete annihilation. Just total devastation beyond anything I thought there would be,” Booth said.
Cal Fire reported that in northern California’s Yolo County, a wildfire that started Saturday afternoon had grown to 70,000 acres and was 5% contained, according to CNN affiliate KCRA.