GREENVILLE, Calif. — The largest wildfire in California this year “catastrophically destroyed” the gold rush town of Greenville on Wednesday night, then forced the closure of a national park on Thursday while also chasing residents from their homes.
The Dixie Fire, now the sixth-largest blaze in the state’s modern history, has been burning for three weeks and spreading inPlumas, Butte, Lassen, and Tehama counties. The blaze has destroyed at least 67 structures, though fire crews have yet to include the damage in Greenville.
Firefighters were bracing for another explosive run of flames Thursday, fueled bybone-dry vegetation caused by the drought. weather conditions of high heat, low humidity, and a gusty afternoon, with winds as strong as 35 mph, were expected to be a continued threat through Thursday night.
Already Thursday, the hazardous conditions caused by the blaze forced the closure of the Lassen Volcanic National Park, a more than 100,000-acre park about 130 miles north of Sacramentoof the Cascade Mountains. Park staff prepared structures in the area over the past few days, but that may not be enough to them. The trees, grass, and brush are so dry that “if ember land, you’re virtually guaranteed to start a new fire,” fire spokesman Mitch Matlow said.
‘Everything’s been burned’: Firefighters witness the destruction of historic Greenville in .
We know that Dixie Fire at 320,000 acres forces new evacuations in Plumas County.
“The fire is moving so fast and so hot, it’s a hazardous situation,” park spokesman Kevin Sweeney said. It’s too early to tell how many acres have burned. On Wednesday, the fire made its way through Greenville, leaving a trail of destruction in a downtown area that features historic buildings built in the 1800s and throughout the 1949 gold rush. A gas station, hotel, and bar were among many fixtures destroyed by flames.
Dan Kearns, a volunteer firefighter, said the winds came up intense Wednesday afternoon and blew the Dixie Fire into town under the type of deadly conditions that havein California communities, including Paradise, in recent years Redding, and Shasta County.
“I won’t say total (destruction) because not every structure is gone. But the town it’s catastrophically destroyed,” Kearns said. Fire crews from multiple agencies remained in the area into Thursday afternoon, putting out spot fires as thick.
Most of the Dollar General store, and a grocery store., including the town library and Indian Valley Community Center. Structures included Greenville High School, a Plumas Bank branch, a
The historic Bransford & McIntyre General Store, standing since 1881 after a fire destroyed the original 1870s building, was killed. So was a small café, where only the metal chairs and an oven were left upright in the burned remains.
“We lost Greenville tonight,” U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents the area, said in an emotionalWednesday. “There’s just no words.” As the fire’s north and eastern sides exploded Wednesday, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning the town’s approximately 800 residents: “You are in imminent danger, and you MUST leave now!”
Firefighters quickly evacuated any residents still in the area, but several of them were met with gun-toting residents not wanting to leave. “Talking about the… we have firefighters that are getting out on them because people don’t want to evacuate,” operations sections chief Jake Cagle said.
Cagle said that while he understands it’s difficult for property owners, refusing to leave can strain fire resources. “When our resources come in, and they have to load up people in their fire vehicles, that takes us away from fighting the fire,” Cagle said.
The growing blaze, which broke out July 21, has burned through more than 322,502 acres, an area larger than Los Angeles. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Pacific Gas & Electric has said it may have been sparked when a tree fell on one of its power lines.
Scene of devastation from Greenville, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. The Dixie Fire swept through the small Sierra Nevada community on. An additional 4,000 people were ordered to evacuate Wednesday, bringing nearly 26,500 people in several counties under evacuation orders.
‘Going to be a long haul’: Massive Dixie Fire merges with Fly Fire, tears through the small town as California burns. According to Cal Fire records, the blaze surpassed last August’s North Complex, which in Butte, Plumas, and Yuba counties. Fifteen people died as a result of the North Complex.
Ken Donnell left Greenville on Wednesday, thinking he’d be back after a quick errand in a nearby town. He was unable to return as the flames swept through. He said all he has now are the clothes on his back and his old pickup truck. He’s pretty sure his office and house, with the go-bag he had prepared, are gone. Donnell remembered assisting victims of 2018’s devastating Camp Fire, in which about 100 friends lost their homes. “Now I have a thousand friends who lose their home in a day,” he said. “We’re all stunned.”
Officials said about 100 miles to the south, between 35 and 40 homes and other structures burned in the fast-moving RiverColfax, a town of about 2,000. It ripped through nearly 4 square miles (10 square kilometers) of dry brush and trees within hours. According to Cal Fire, there was no containment, and about 6,000 counties.
And about 150 miles to the west of the Dixie Fire, the lightning-sparked McFarland Fire threatened tinyForest. The fire was only 7% contained after burning through nearly 33 square miles of drought-stricken vegetation.
Similar risky weather was expected across Southern California, where heat advisories and warnings were issued for interior valleys, mountains, and deserts for much of the week. Heatwaves and historic droughts tied tohave made wildfires harder to fight in America’s West. climate change has made the region much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
More than 20,000 firefighters and, active wildfires covering 2,919 square miles in 13 U.S. states, the National Interagency Fire Center said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dixie Fire Destroys California gold rush town: ‘We Lost Greenville’