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Tamarack Fire: Newsom Tours Fire's Destructive Path; 'This Is Serious Stuff. The Cost Of Property, Lives'

GARDNERVILLE, Nev. (CBS SF/AP) — With a backdrop of a home burned out by the devastating Tamarack Fire, Gov. Gavin Newsom pleaded for more federal firefighting assistance Wednesday as the state faces another year of historic wildfires.

There have already been two megafires in the state this year. The still burning Dixie Fire in Plumas and Butte counties has burned 217,581 acres and was 23 percent contained on Wednesday. The Beckwourth Complex fire was at 105,670 acres and 98 percent contain.

Meanwhile, the Tamarack Fire -- which grew from a smoldering lightning fire over the July 4th holiday in the Sierra near Markleeville -- was at 68,393 in both Alpine County California and Douglas County Nevada.

"We are experiencing a megadrought in the entire West Coast of the United States," Newsom said. "The hots are getting a lot hotter. The dries are getting drier and as a consequence these men and women in uniform (firefighters) have their work cut out for them."

"We have 7600 firefighters battling the wildfires in California," Newsom continued. "Already, we have had 5,600 wildfires year to date. It's taken 480,000 acres."

"Last year, record breaking year in the state of California. Year to date, we are close to four times the number of acres to burn year-to-date this year compared to the pace that was set last year. This is serious stuff. The cost of property, lives. Those that survive, but will never get back those memories."

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak joined Newsom amid the ashen ground of the Tamarack Fire.

The governors, both Democrats, called on the federal government to provide more firefighting resources and stressed that climate change could make wildfires even more intense and destructive in the future.

Battling multiple large-scale fires with limited resources, the U.S. Forest Service decided in early July to let dozens of lighting fires burn, including the Tamarack Fire.

Sisolak said more resources and firefighters would have prevented the U.S. Forest Service from having to make difficult decisions about where to direct its resources.

"We need help on the federal side. We need more people coming in. We need more resources. We need more air support. We need more boots on the ground in order to make this a more fair fight in terms of fighting these fires," Sisolak said.

Nevada firefighters with the East Fork Fire Protection District told Newsom that each year fires are spreading earlier in the season due to hotter temperatures and drier weather.

The U.S. Forest Service manages the majority of wildfire-prone land in California. Newsom said the agency is understaffed, underfunded and in need of major changes.

"We have a historic framework that has to be thrown out. You can't look back a decade or two. The world is radically changing as the climate changes. You may not believe in science, you got it with your own damn eyes," Newsom said, gesturing toward the blackened landscape.

Cooler weather and even some rain helped in the battle against some of the largest blazes this week but fire officials warned that hotter, drier weather was returning.

The 106-square-mile (275-square-kilometer) blaze was more than halfway surrounded by containment lines. At least 23 buildings have burned since lightning sparked the fire on July 4.

Evacuation orders for about 2,000 residents on both sides of the state line were lifted early in the week.

Tuesday saw thunderstorms that brought some rain and cooler and more humid weather that made grass and brushy areas less prone to burning, fire officials said. The chance of thunderstorms with some rain, possibly heavy at times, was expected to continue through Friday.

"This wet stuff fell out of the sky yesterday that I barely remembered and recognized," Dan Dallas, an incident commander for the fire, said Tuesday evening at a briefing.

It fell gently overnight over the whole fire and coupled with firefighter efforts moderated the ferocity of the blaze.

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