Dixie Fire burns over 944 square miles, threatens thousands of homes

Wildfire Watch

The Latest – Tuesday, August 17:

7:17 p.m.

According to Cal Fire officials, the Dixie Fire has now burned 626,751 acres and is 31% contained. More than 1,200 structures have been destroyed, and more than 16,000 structures remain threatened. Three first responders have been injured by the fire as well.

Original story below.

PLUMAS COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL/AP) — The Dixie Fire, California’s largest single wildfire in recorded history, threatened thousands of homes and prompted more evacuations Tuesday. 

Nearly 6,000 fire personnel are battling the Dixie Fire, burning northeast of Paradise, which started July 13. As of Tuesday morning, it’s burned 604,511 acres — or over 944 square miles — across Plumas, Butte, Tehama and Lassen counties and remains 31% contained.

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

Sunday, PG&E warned that about 39,000 customers in parts of 16 counties may be affected by a power shutoff Tuesday night in order to avoid the possibility of igniting a fire. 

Over 16,000 structures remain threatened by the fire, Cal Fire reported. At least 1,180 structures have been destroyed, including 630 homes. Eighty structures have been damaged.

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

Weekend thunderstorms across the northern Sierra didn’t produce much rain, instead whipping up winds and unleashing lightning strikes as crews tried to contain the month-old Dixie Fire amid temperatures forecast to top 100 degrees.

“We’re definitely still dealing with the possibility of lightning. Winds are all over the place. Things are going to be pretty unstable for the next couple days,” said fire spokesman Edwin Zuniga.

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.

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.

In the Dixie Fire West Zone, a “significant change” in weather pattern resulted in southwest winds at 15 to 25 mph, aiding fire activity overnight, Cal Fire reported.

Containment lines at Keddie Point, into the north arm of Indian Valley and Lone Rock are holding in the East Zone. Crews continue to contain spot fires in the area.

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

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

In some places where firefighters are not able to access the flames by road, they’re 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.

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

After successfully locating 43 unaccounted for individuals, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday crews continue to search for four others.  

  • Alan Kuhl of Chester
  • Ronald Avila of Greenville
  • Raymond Hunt of Greenville
  • Irene Andrews of Greenville

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 town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

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.

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