MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE, Calif. – Hundreds of firefighters are still working to contain and extinguish the York Fire within California’s Mojave National Preserve that has so far scorched more than 82,000 acres of land and is only 30% contained.
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the York Fire, but fire officials say it began on private land within the preserve and quickly spread from San Bernardino County in California into Clark County in Nevada.
Monsoon rains in the Southwest helping York Fire suppression efforts
A monsoonal weather pattern has energized across the Southwest, bringing in rain and wind to the region where flames have been burning the landscape.
According to MNP officials, the York Fire was observed backing down from an area known as Crescent Peak away from the Nevada border on Tuesday.
Heavy rain was observed across the area during the day and allowed for moderated fire behavior, according to a Facebook post from the MNP.
The rains have allowed firefighters to continue building containment lines, reinforce existing containment lines and check for hotspots around the York Fire’s perimeter.
Wildlife threatened by monsoon rain, York Fire
The MNP says the monsoon rain is posing a challenge to firefighters not only because it can have an effect on the York Fire, but it’s also bringing out more wildlife.
The desert tortoise, which is a federally threatened species, is active on wet summer days. They emerge from their burrows to drink water from pools on the ground or in depressions in rocks, according to the MNP.
Because more tortoises are out looking for water, firefighters are not only having to keep an eye on the growing York Fire but also avoiding burrows and tortoises.
Staff believe the York Fire has caused only minimal damage to the tortoise habitat and has likely only affected a few individuals because tortoise observations in the fire area have been rare.
Preserve officials also said that most desert wildlife are able to move to safety when a fire approaches their area.
The National Park Service (NPS) says more than 400 firefighters are working to contain the fire from the ground and the air but have been met with other challenging conditions, including "fire whirls" and thick smoke.
A fire whirl is a vortex of smoke and flames that form when intense heat and turbulent winds combine, creating a spinning column of fire that resembles a tornado.
"These fire whirls are similar to dust devils but are specifically associated with the heat and energy released by a wildfire," the MNP said on Monday. "They can range in size from a few feet to hundreds of feet in height, and their rotational speed can vary widely."
The situation is hazardous for firefighters because the fire whirls can spread embers across all directions, igniting new fires.
- Image 1 of 9
- Image 2 of 9
- Image 3 of 9
- Image 4 of 9
- Image 5 of 9
- Image 6 of 9
- Image 7 of 9
- Image 8 of 9
- Image 9 of 9
In addition, the fire whirls can change directions quickly, making them unpredictable.
The firefighting efforts have been a coordinated response between resources from the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the San Bernardino Fire Protection District and the Clark County Fire Department.
Quiet start to the California fire season
The York Fire is the Golden State's largest wildfire of the year for what has been a down period for fire activity in the state.
According to CAL FIRE, just under 100,000 acres have burned, which is only around 27% of average.
The FOX Forecast Center credits an unusually wet winter and spring for contributing to the reduced fire activity.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, slightly more than a quarter of the state is experiencing either unusually dry or drought conditions.