Wildfire Destroys Much of California Gold Rush Town

August 5, 2021

A wind-driven wildfire tore through a Northern California mountain town, leaving much of the downtown in ashes as crews braced for another explosive run of flames in the midst of dangerous weather.

The Dixie Fire, swollen by bone-dry vegetation and 40 mph gusts, raged through the northern Sierra Nevada town of Greenville on Wednesday evening. A gas station, hotel and bar were among many structures gutted in the town, which dates to California’s Gold Rush era and has some buildings more than a century old.

As the fire’s north and eastern sides exploded, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office issued a Facebook posting warning the town’s approximately 800 residents: “You are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!”

The 3-week-old blaze was the state’s largest wildfire and had blackened well over 435 square miles, burning dozens of homes before making its new run.

Early in the week, some 5,000 firefighters had made progress on the blaze, saving some threatened homes, bulldozing pockets of unburned vegetation and managing to surround a third of the perimeter.

To the south, Cal Fire said between 35 and 40 homes and other structures burned in the fast-moving River Fire that broke out Wednesday near Colfax, and within hours swelled to more than 2 square miles. There was no containment and thousands of people are under evacuation orders in Placer and Nevada counties.

And about 150 miles to the west of the Dixie Fire, the lightning-sparked McFarland Fire threatened remote homes along the Trinity River in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The fire was only 5% contained after burning through nearly 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) 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.

Heat waves and historic drought tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight in America’s West. Scientists say 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 support personnel were battling 97 large, active wildfires covering 2,919 square miles in 13 U.S. states, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

Topics Catastrophe California Natural Disasters Wildfire

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