Rising temperatures fan new wildfires out West

The temperature is rising and records are falling, especially in the west, where July has been one of the hottest ever.

Yakima, Washington topped 100 degrees on Friday. Eugene, Oregon a record of 102 degrees. Red Bluff, California hit 101 degrees.

The heat and the relentless drought are turning breezes into blow torches. In California alone at least 18 wildfires are burning.

Firefighters facing a wall of flames fueled by dry wind and triple digit heat fought back against a fast moving fire 100 miles north of San Francisco. Air tankers and choppers were called in for support and 650 residents were quickly evacuated from the rural area.

"I had never seen flames so tall, nearly 200 and 300 foot flames," said one resident.

Nearly a thousand firefighters worked all night to hold back the "rocky" fire from jumping the main highway and into homes. The blaze grew to 18,000 acres. At one point crews had to quickly retreat. One firefighter captured the flames on film from the front lines.

Stephen Gilardi said the wind shifted and within minutes the fire began to bear down on his ranch. Gilardi watched as crews tried to save his property.

"The fire was wild and really aggressive it burnt the whole place," he said. "The fire shifted towards me."

The fire is only 5 percent contained, but in some parts of Northern California hills have not burned in years leaving brush dry and dense. Fire analyst Taro Pusina says that is creating more intense fire.

"The drought is creating much drier conditions and we are seeing more intense fires burning that are more difficult to kind of predict," he said.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.