BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — Fire crews continue to battle the erratic Dixie Fire along the burn scar of the disastrous 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County.
Over the weekend, the Dixie Fire merged with the nearby Fly Fire, which started Thursday. Cal Fire said it’s become the 15th largest wildfire in California’s history, having burned 198,021 acres so far.
Pacific Gas & Electric has reported to California utility regulators that its equipment may have been involved in the Dixie Fire’s start.
PG&E equipment has repeatedly been linked to major wildfires, including the Camp Fire that ravaged the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.
The fire’s erratic behavior has fire crews concerned.
More than 10,000 structures are threatened by the fire, which is bordered by the Union Pacific Rail Line and Highway 70. Twenty-two structures have been destroyed, 14 minor structures have been destroyed and seven structures have been damaged.
Cal Fire expects temperatures to be above normal on Monday and said there is a chance for isolated thunderstorms to hit the area later this week.
Crews have had to battle the blaze mostly from the air due to difficult terrain, and narrow roads into the fire area have been closed to all but fire personnel.
Cal Fire said the highly active fire continues to put off heavy smoke. At times, it makes the firefight difficult from the air. The fire is even generating weather, causing dangerous conditions for fire crews on the ground.
“When the hot gases move very rapidly up, something has to replace those gases. Air rushes in from all around to fill that space, which means we get high winds at ground level,” Mitch Matlow, the public information officer for the Dixie Fire, told FOX40.
Spot fires are also causing problems for fire crews.
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.
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 sign up for their county’s CodeRed emergency alert system for evacuation information using the links below:
Officials shared an evacuation map, with areas in red representing mandatory evacuations and the yellow areas being evacuation warning zones.
All highway closures are being reported by Caltrans on its website.
The following locations have been listed as evacuation centers:
- Veterans Memorial Hall at 225 Gay Street in Chester, CA in Pumas County
- Springs of Hope Church at 59 Bell Lane in Quincy, CA in Plumas County
- Ridge Way Park at 19725 Ridge Road in Red Bluff, CA in Tehama County
- Church of Nazarene at 2238 Monte Vista Avenue in Oroville, CA in Butte County
- Lassen Community College at 478-200 in Susanville, CA in Butte County
Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Plumas, Butte, Lassen and Alpine counties because of wildfires that he said were causing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.” The proclamation opened the way for more state support.
Such conditions are often from a combination of unusual random, short-term and natural weather patterns heightened by long-term, human-caused climate change. Global warming has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years.
In Butte County, fire evacuee Robert Kirk relived his effort to save his neighbors home in Belden Town.
“We had chunks of debris flying through the town hitting the ground, sparks everywhere,” Kirk said. “We didn’t save anybody’s home. They all burned down.”
While he stuck around when the flames came, his friend Mike Garoppo packed up the fifth wheel and headed to Quincy.
Days later, he was met by flames from the Fly Fire forcing yet another escape.
“It’s mountains it fires they jump, I’ve been up here all my life it’s expected,” Garoppo said.
Cal Fire said there is a possibility of isolated thunderstorms Monday night east of the Dixie Fire.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.