As a roaring fire engulfed the hillside above him, Capt. Mark Bailey leaned on his shovel and guarded against embers leaping to the unburned side of the road above this small Northern California town. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said on Monday.
He was one of a dozen firefighters positioned along the dirt road in a remote patch of forest, which fire engines and bulldozers used to access the front lines of the blaze, a wall of flames several stories tall and moving north above a valley filled with vineyards and olive groves.
Wildfires are tearing across California, Colorado, New Mexico and other Western states this week, chewing up bone-dry mountainsides, scorching buildings and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate from their homes. The message across the West — just as plans for July 4 fireworks and camping trips get underway — is that after a record-breaking 2017 fire season, 2018 is likely to be brutal, too.