A tiny mountain town in Northern California was engulfed by a 3-week-old wildfire. It destroyed most of the historic downtown area and left blocks of homes in ruins. Crews were preparing for another explosion of flames on Thursday due to dangerous weather.
On Wednesday, the Dixie Fire, which was fueled by bone-dry vegetation, 40 mph (64 km/h) winds, raged through Greenville, northern Sierra Nevada. The town’s historic gold rush era saw some wooden buildings more than 100 years old.
The fire “burnt down the entire downtown.” Plumas County Supervisor Kevin Goss posted on Facebook that the fire had “burnt down our entire downtown.”
Plumas County Sheriff Tom Johns is a Greenville resident for over 100 years. He said that both homes and businesses were destroyed.
He said, “My heart is broken by what has happened there.”
“We lost Greenville tonight,” U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents the area, said in an emotional Facebook video. “There’s just no words.”
The Plumas County Sheriff’s Office sent an urgent online warning to 800 Plumas County residents Wednesday as the fire’s eastern and northern sides erupted.
Similar warnings were issued Thursday when flames moved toward the southeast towards Taylorsville, a tiny mountain community about 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Greenville.
Crews were protecting Chester’s homes from the northwest. There were many residents there who were under evacuation orders and warnings in various counties.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.
Margaret Elysia Garcia is an artist and writer. She watched video of the Greenville office burning. She kept all her journals since second grade, as well as a hand edit on a novel she wrote on the top of her grandfather’s roll-top desk.
“We are in shock. She said that it wasn’t because we didn’t believe this could happen to them. It took our entire town.
On Wednesday, firefighters had to deal with residents who refused to leave. According to Jake Cagle, chief of the incident management operations section, firefighters had to spend a lot of time loading people into their cars and ferrying them out because they refused.
He said, “We have firefighters who are getting guns out on them because people don’t want to evacuate.”
July 14th was the worst fire in California. It had engulfed more than 504 square miles (1.305 km), which is larger than Los Angeles. Investigating the cause of the fire is ongoing. But Pacific Gas & Electric has said it may have been sparked when a tree fell on one of its power lines.
The fire was near the town of Paradise, which was largely destroyed in a 2018 wildfire that became the nation’s deadliest in at least a century and was blamed on PG&E equipment.
Ken Donnell, who was planning to return home after a short errand in Greenville, left Greenville Wednesday. However, he couldn’t return when the flames swept through. He said that all he had left was his clothes and an old pickup truck. He is certain that his house and office, along with the bag he had packed for evacuation, are gone.
Donnell remembered helping victims of 2018’s devastating Camp Fire, in which about 100 friends lost their homes.
He said, “Now, I have a thousand of my friends lose their homes in a single day.”
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Thursday’s Dixie Fire was the sixth-largest in California history. The state saw the emergence of four other large fires in 2020.
The fire forced Lassen Volcanic National Park to close to visitors.
Dozens upon homes were already on fire before Wednesday’s new flames. According to the U.S. Forest Service, initial reports indicate that only 25% of Greenville’s structures were saved by firefighters.
Mitch Matlow, a fire spokesperson, stated that “We did all we could.” “Sometimes it’s just too much.”
Officials said that between 35 to 40 homes and other buildings were destroyed in the River Fire, which broke out Wednesday close to Colfax, a small town of around 2,000. It was located about 100 miles (160 km) south. It ripped through almost 4 square miles (10 km2) of dry brush and trees in just hours. Cal Fire stated that there was no containment, and approximately 6,000 people were evacuated from Placer and Nevada counties.
Jamie Brown, Colfax, ate Thursday breakfast at a downtown eatery while waiting for news about his house’s status.
He had evacuated his property at Rollins Lake the day before, when it looked like the entire town would burn down.
Although firefighters made progress earlier in the week, severe heat, low humidity, and gusty winds continued to erupt Wednesday. They are expected to continue to be a threat.
Officials said that winds were likely to shift direction several times on Thursday, placing pressure on firefighters in areas of the fire not seen activity for several days.
Matlow stated that the trees, grass, and brush were so dry, “if an ember land, you’re practically guaranteed to start another fire.”
Wildfires in the American West are now more difficult to combat due to heat waves and droughts that have been linked to climate change. Climate change, according to scientists, has caused the region to become warmer and dryer over the past 30 year. This will make it more difficult for wildfires to be controlled and more destructive.
The McFarland Fire, which was sparked by lightning and began 150 miles (240 km) west of Dixie Fire, threatened remote homes along Trinity River in Shasta-Trinity National Forest. After it had burned almost 33 square miles (85 km2) of drought-stricken vegetation, there was not much to be done to contain the fire.
Southern California was also expected to experience risky weather, with heat advisories and warnings issued for the inland valleys, mountains, and deserts for most of the week.
The National Interagency Fire Center reported that more than 20,000 firefighters and other support personnel were fighting wildfires in 97 areas covering 2,919 sq miles (7,560 km) in 13 U.S. States.