(KTXL) – On the west side of the Feather River, north of Lake Oroville, the Dixie Fire is burning in places so steep getting there by car is not possible, and going on foot would be a deadly venture.
“Very rugged steep terrain. Steep canyons. Heavy timber,” said Robert Foxworthy, with Cal Fire.
Battling the fire by air is essential in preventing loss of life and property. Against a canvas of sunlight, accented by the glow of fire filtered by smoke, a Cal Fire aircraft paints the sky with retardant: It settles on trees and shrubs just outside the fire’s perimeter.
In some places where firefighters are not able to access the flames by road, they’re using railroads. A train of two Union Pacific engines, with water tanks in the front and back, is traveling the tracks on the west side of the Feather River, which also provides a convenient water source for helicopters.
Crew members onboard the train are dousing flames that are creeping downslope toward the tracks, and they are soaking the tracks themselves.
Crews are throwing everything they have at this fire, keeping in mind peak fire season arrived way ahead of schedule this year.
“The fuels, the things that are burning, are about the same as they would be in August, September time frame this year just due to the fact that we’re so far behind in our average rainfall,” Foxworthy said.
The area where the Dixie Fire is burning is home to very few people but a lot of hydroelectric power infrastructure, which firefighters are working to protect. Flames are burning away from populated areas into the forest north of Paradise.
Though it’s burning away from most residents, it’s a visual reminder that fire will be a constant threat in California until the rainy season returns.
“Now is the time to get ready if you’re asked to evacuate. Don’t wait until it’s time. Have those go bags ready,” Foxworthy said. “Have that plan in place. And when you get the call to leave, please do so because it makes it easier for us to get in there and fight fire so we’re not trying to evacuate you from the area. We’re able to just get in there and extinguish that fire as fast as possible.”