Smoke from the Williams fire, burning in the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles on Sep. 2. Flame retardant can be seen spewing from an air tanker to the left of the smoke plumes.
Credit: Rich Szlavko
Thick columns of smoke continue to rise from a wildfire that is chewing its way through the steep brush of the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles, Calif., in photos taken by agencies helping to fight the wildfire.
The Williams Fire, named after the Camp Williams Resort near where it started on Sunday (Sept. 2), has already torched 6 square miles (15.4 square km) of forest as of today (Sept. 5). It isn't expected to be contained for more than a week, according to the National Forest Service.
The fire hasn't moved toward the suburbs of Los Angeles, owing to the lack of Santa Ana winds. Southern California's fire season usually starts with the arrival of these winds, which are strongest in November and December. The winds can even reach hurricane strength (74 mph or greater) above 1,000 feet (305 meters). They come from the northeast and can flame up and push wildfires into suburban areas in the foothills of the San Gabriel and Santa Ana Mountains.
But just about every other condition is right for fire. The thick brush and pine trees on the slopes are very dry due to scant rain, and the area hasn't burned for about 20 years, according to Inciweb, a website that provides up-to-date information on wildfires. The humidity is also low, at 25 percent, and the steep terrain makes firefighting difficult.
There are currently 1,275 people battling the blaze, with 24 percent of the fire contained, according to Inciweb. Firefighters are attacking the blaze from both the ground and air, with eight air tankers, 10 helicopters, 68 fire engines and eight bulldozers being used in an attempt to gain the upper hand. In one photograph, a trail of flame retardant can be seen spewing from an air tanker.
It's been a bad year for wildfires, partially due to the intense drought gripping much of the country.
Wildfires raged through Colorado and throughout the Southwest earlier this summer. Now California, Montana and Idaho are feeling the burn. Today, 17 fires blazed across the three states, burning through vegetation ranging from sagebrush to grass to beetle-ravaged lodgepole pine forests.
Nationwide, there are currently 24 large fires burning, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. These blazes have charred 12,414 square miles (32,152 square kilometers). That's above the 10-year average for this date, which is 9,602 square miles (24,869 square km).