Suddenly the sky over the Sierra Nevada darkens.
The yellowish, acrid smoke over the burning forests in the border area between California and Nevada now shimmers ominously gray.
The downpour doesn't just bring heavy rain.
Sleet and hail also lash the earth.
It's all over in twenty minutes.
The sky is clearing up.
Shortly afterwards the heat returns.
Political correspondent for North America based in Washington.
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After two extreme drought summers in the American West, the soils are so dry that they cannot absorb the water. And the thunderstorm did not bring any relief to the firefighters. Wind has come up, it's only spreading the flames faster now. The Tamarack Fire is one of dozens in the American West. In California, people learned to live with the flames. But not in July. The forest fire season usually starts towards the end of summer. The fires were preceded by a heat wave with record temperatures of up to 52 degrees Celsius. And now the fires are spreading at a terrifying rate in the coniferous forests of the Sierra Nevada.
After the thunderstorm, the Alpine County Sheriff's office announces that additional areas around Markleeville will be evacuated.
The fire has now destroyed an area of 16,000 hectares.
The operations center points out that there are still places in the emergency shelter.
Anyone who depends on help with the evacuation should be in front of the "Mad Dog Café".
In front of the café on the outskirts of Markleeville, an elderly man is just putting a sign on a fence: "Thank you, firefighters".
A woman in dark blue trousers and a T-shirt steps out of the door.
It's Kim Jackson.
The 55-year-old Californian only bought the café in January.
She actually runs a pick-up truck dealership in Carson City, the small capital of the state of Nevada, just under an hour's drive away.
Lightning struck the state forest
Jackson wears the navy uniform of the Alpine County Volunteer Fire Department.
She doesn't speak very well about the national forest service at the moment.
A lot of land in the area is managed by the United States Forest Service.
On July 4th, American Independence Day, lightning struck the state forest.
That's how the fire started.
But the federal agency staff didn't think it was a problem, says Jackson: It was a small fire;
everything was under control, they said.
In fact, controlled fires are part of fire protection here.
But that's one of the things with these fires, says Jackson, rolling his eyes: “You have them under control until you no longer have them under control.” In mid-July the wind set in and a smoldering fire turned into a major fire. The evacuation began and expanded day by day. The fire should have been dealt with immediately after the lightning strike, Jackson complains. The forest authorities play with the livelihoods of the people. The region lives from tourism: Thousands of people come to hike and cycle in summer and to ski in winter. Lake Tahoe is also only 30 miles away. But nobody gets into charred forests, says Jackson. Politicians speak of climate change. "I don't know if I believe it." The authorities should do their job. She does not know how long she can hold the position in the "Mad Dog Café",says Jackson then. When the evacuation call comes, she'll pack her things.
Not far from the café, at an intersection, police cars block the local road that leads to Markleeville. It is a hamlet with 200 inhabitants, in the middle of the forest. Again and again, residents drive to the intersection and ask the police officers to only be let in briefly so that they can quickly get something out of the house. The police wave aside: “No, no chance,” they shout in a friendly manner. It is too dangerous. The fire is moving fast right now.