Thousands of US firefighters are battling a blaze in California that has grown so big it is generating its own weather system, with authorities warning conditions could worsen on Monday.
The flames have grown so large that they have created clouds that can cause lightning and high winds, which in turn can serve to fuel the fire, according to experts.
Around 5,400 firefighters have been struggling to contain the inferno, which was just 22 percent contained as of Monday morning, the California fire and forestries department reports.
“If these clouds get tall enough they do have the potential to produce lightning,” warns Julia Ruthford, a government meteorologist assigned to the blaze.
The Dixie Fire has been raging in the forests of northern California since mid-July, part of a climate crisis that has brought sweltering heat and an alarming drought. Over the weekend, it merged with another fire, prompting new evacuation orders.
Wildfires are common in the state, but this summer has been particularly incendiary.
Fires have already ravaged three times more vegetation this year than they had at this time in 2020, the worst fire year in California’s history.
Rescue workers have been dispatched from as far away as Florida to help contain the Dixie Fire and its pyrocumulus clouds.
Despite its size — the fire’s circumference stretches at least 82 miles and it has burned 197,487 acres — it has so far ravaged extremely remote areas, destroying the few dozen homes and small buildings in its path.