Valley fire spread with ‘mind-boggling’ speed, experts say – Los Angeles Times

When the Valley fire erupted Saturday afternoon in Lake County, it quickly became clear firefighters weren’t going to be able to keep up.

As officials evacuated homes in its path, the blaze would jump ahead of them, threatening more structures before firefighters could advance.

“Ashes, embers would rain down a quarter-, half-mile behind them,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “As fire crews would make progress — hold the fire — it would burn right past them.”

Experts said the Valley fire moved faster than any other in California’s recent past. In less than 12 hours, it had scorched 40,000 acres.

“There aren’t very many fires in California’s history that have done that. I don’t know if there really is a precedent for it,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University. “This fire sort of broke the rules even relative to this incredible season that’s already occurred.”

In some ways, the Valley fire is the blaze officials have been worried about all summer: the product of drought conditions made all the more dangerous because it burned through dense terrain dotted by small communities. Although other fires this summer have also spread quickly, this one’s path took it through several rural towns that were left defenseless by its speed and size.

Dry conditions from four years of drought, experts said, were just one factor that made the Valley fire so difficult to fight.

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