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Harrowing Helicopter Rescues as California Wildfires Rage

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday described the effort to rescue about 200 people from the Mammoth Pool Reservoir in the Sierra as lifesaving. He said the weekend’s extraordinary heat made for one of the most challenging times in California’s history. By Tuesday, Pacific Gas and Electric began the largest safety power shut-off of the year in 22 counties across Northern and Central California. The blackouts are meant to lower the possibility of new fires being ignited by electrical equipment.

Mr. Newsom warned that high winds forecast for Tuesday night and Wednesday, from Northern California to the south, could worsen the fires and force more evacuations.

“We’re resilient,” he said. “We’ll get through this. This is not a permanent state.”

While California’s climate has always made the state prone to fires, the link between human-caused climate change and larger fires is inextricable, said Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“This climate change connection is straightforward: Warmer temperatures dry out fuels,” he said. “In areas with abundant and very dry fuels, all you need is a spark.”

Fire and extreme weather were also battering other parts of the West, as hot temperatures, strong winds and dry conditions gave way to devastation. Fire ripped through Malden, Wash., a town of about 200 people in the eastern part of the state, leaving about 80 percent of the town destroyed. In Oregon, officials in Marion County, south of Portland, implored some residents to “please leave now” as fires that have burned through more than 27,000 acres approached more densely populated areas.

For those who became trapped by the wildfires in California, the weekend began as an ordinary retreat into the Sierra National Forest, a vast expanse in the Sierra Nevada northeast of Fresno.

Sal Gonzalez, 38, a high school athletics equipment manager from Madera, Calif., has an annual tradition of meeting up with wrestling teammates from college each Labor Day weekend.

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