September 24 2021 03:30 pm

Dixie Fire burns nearly 1,000 square miles; number of destroyed homes continues to rise

Wildfire Watch

The Latest – Wednesday, Aug. 18:

8:43 p.m.

According to the latest numbers from Cal Fire, the Dixie Fire has burned 662,647 acres and is 35% contained. More than 1,200 structures have been destroyed, 96 structures have been damaged and 16,085 structures remain threatened.

Original story below.

PLUMAS COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL/AP) — The Dixie Fire continues to threaten thousands of homes and prompt more evacuations as it burns across Plumas, Butte, Tehama and Lassen counties.

More than 6,000 fire personnel are battling California’s largest single wildfire in recorded history, which started July 13. As of Wednesday morning, it’s burned 635,728 acres — nearly 1,000 square miles — and is 33% contained. Click or tap here to see the current fire perimeter.

“The Dixie Fire is the first fire that we’re aware of that has burned from the west side of the mountain range all the way over into the valley floor on the east side of the mountain range,” Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said Wednesday at a CalOES briefing. “We don’t have any record of that happening before.”

A red flag warning is in effect for Northern California until 8 p.m. Wednesday. 

Late Tuesday, Pacific Gas & Electric said it has begun shutting off power to as many as 51,000 customers in 18 Northern California counties to prevent wildfires for the first time since last year’s historically bad fire season.

The Dixie Fire merged with the nearby Fly Fire, which started July 22. Pacific Gas & Electric has reported to California utility regulators that its equipment may have been involved in the start of both fires.

PG&E equipment has repeatedly been linked to major wildfires, including the Camp Fire that ravaged the nearby town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

Over 16,000 structures remain threatened by the fire, Cal Fire reported. At least 1,208 structures have been destroyed, including 645 homes. Eighty-one structures have been damaged.

Officials said the numbers reflected may change as crews make progress through the area.

Gusts of up to 50 mph on Saturday pushed flames closer to Janesville, a town of about 1,500 people just east of Greenville, the small gold rush-era community decimated by the fire 10 days ago.

In a press briefing Wednesday evening, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office said people sheltering in place in the Janesville area should leave immediately. 

For online resources and the latest information on evacuation orders, click or tap here.

Shifting winds continue to challenge fire crews in the Dixie Fire West Zone, Cal Fire reported Wednesday morning. Fire growth challenged control lines overnight.

“Red flag weather” contributed to the fire’s movement to the east and south Tuesday in the fire’s East Zone, Cal Fire said. The fire crossed the south side of Beardsley-Grade Road, quickly progressing towards Kessler Peak in the Dyer Mountain area.

“Spot fires are always an issue,” said Brad Bihun, public information officer for California’s response to the Dixie Fire told FOX40 Friday. 

Press Democrat photojournalist Kent Porter captured video of what appears to be a fire tornado on Aug. 9 on Diamond Mountain Road in Plumas County.

Crews have had to battle the blaze mostly from the air due to difficult terrain. 

Firefighters are also using Union Pacific engines, with water tanks in the front and back. The engines travel the tracks on the west side of the Feather River, which also provides a convenient water source for helicopters.

Officials with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services held a press briefing last Wednesday after touring Greenville.

If there’s even a blade of grass near you, that is enough to start a fire these days. It is so dry. And the way we’ve seen this burn through live timber in the tens of thousands of acres an hour is unlike anything we’ve seen, other than a few times. And those few times, most of them have been within the last year or two years.

Thom Porter, Cal Fire Director 

Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents the district impacted by the Dixie and River fires, issued a tearful promise to his constituents following the devastation in Greenville.

But we lost Greenville tonight, and there’s just not words for how us in the government haven’t been able to get the job done. We’ll take up the fight even harder and more so. We got to … stop this. We got to get D.C. to pay attention, we got to get Sacramento to pay attention. Forget the politics, forget the nonsense, we have to stop making this happen by inattention to what is obvious.

Doug LaMalfa, U.S. Representative for California’s 1st District

“My heart is crushed by what has occurred there,” said Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns, a lifelong Greenville resident.

Firefighters were hospitalized on Aug. 7 after a weakened tree fell and struck four crew members, a San Diego County Cal Fire crew reported. 

Three firefighters and a fire captain suffered severe injuries, Cal Fire said. The fire captain remains at a care facility to receive “aggressive physical therapy.”

Of the four firefighters injured, two will need additional rehabilitation. The other two have been allowed to return to duty.

After successfully locating 46 unaccounted for individuals, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday crews continue to search for Ronald Avila of Greenville. Officials believe Avila may have left the area four years ago.

Because evacuation orders and warnings are changing frequently, Cal Fire is directing residents to the social media pages of local law enforcement and forest management.

Residents can also sign up for their county’s CodeRed emergency alert system for evacuation information using the links below.

The following locations have been listed as evacuation centers:

  • Springs of Hope Church at 59 Bell Lane in Quincy, CA in Plumas County
  • Lassen Community College at 78-200 CA-139 in Susanville, CA in Lassen County
  • Holy Family Catholic Church at 108 Taylor Avenue in Portola, CA in Plumas County

Officials shared an evacuation map, with areas in red representing mandatory evacuations and the yellow areas being evacuation warning zones.

Lassen National Forest and Plumas National Forest officials have also issued closures.

Road and highway closures are being reported by Caltrans on its website. People traveling in the area should follow egress route directions in the evacuation notification because GPS can lead drivers to hazardous areas, Cal Fire warned.

Click or tap here for additional information.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

State officials provided an update on California’s wildfires on Wednesday at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Watch the full video below.

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