A treacherous wildfire has burned seven homes in the mountain west of Palm Springs, the gay-friendly mecca in California’s Sonoran desert. The U.S. Forest Service told the Associated Press that many more buildings required evacuation.
The fire started Monday in the San Jacinto Mountains, a picturesque range between Palm Springs and the town of Hemet to the east. As of this morning, the blaze had grown to about 22 square miles and was about 10 percent contained by the efforts of 2,200 firefighters and 25 planes.
The fire’s projected path led away from Palm Springs on Wednesday, but a quickly changing wind direction could send it toward the city. The Forest Service reported seeing ash fall into swimming pools in Indio, 20 miles west of the flames.
Officials said that the Palm Springs area had seen a parching drought this year, with only 40 to 50 percent of the normal precipitation last winter—the desert’s rainy season—and not a drop since last April. The arid conditions stripped moisture from the San Jacinto Mountains’ thick underbrush and forests. Some affected areas hadn’t experienced wildfires in 35 years.
The drought has been coupled with fierce daily temps well over 100 degrees in June and July. Palm Springs hit 122 degrees on June 29, shattering a 19-year-old record.
Summer is Palm Springs’ slow season, fortunately—the thousands of LGBT visitors who come for The Dinah, the White Party and the Palm Springs International Film Festival avoid the desert’s scorching temperatures in June, July and August.