By CHRISTOPHER WEBER and NOAHBERGER
Greenville, California (AP) — A wildfire three weeks ago swallowed a small mountain town in Northern California, flattening most of historic downtown and leaving blocks of homes in ashes. Another explosive flame run on Thursday in dangerous weather.
On Wednesday evening, a Dixie fire swelled by dry vegetation and a gust of 40 mph (64 km) struck a community in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains of Greenville. Gas stations, churches, hotels, museums and bars were one of the fixtures in California’s Gold Rush-era town, with wooden buildings built over 100 years ago.
The fire “burned down our entire downtown. Our historic buildings, family homes, small businesses, and our children’s schools are completely lost,” said the Supervisor in Pulmouth County. Visor Kevin Goss writes on Facebook.
“We lost the Greenville tonight,” US Congressman Doug Lamalfa, who represents the region, said in a moving Facebook video. “There are no words.”
When the north and east sides of the fire exploded on Wednesday, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office issued an urgent warning online to about 800 residents of the town: “You are in imminent danger and now I have to leave right away! “
A similar warning was issued Thursday to residents of another small mountain community, Taylorsville, as the flames were pushed southeast.
In the northwest, the crew guarded the houses in the town of Chester. In some counties, thousands of residents were ordered or warned, but no injuries or deaths were reported immediately.
Artist and writer Margaret Elysia Garcia, who was waiting for a fire in Southern California, watched a video in the flames of an office in downtown Greenville. The office included all the journals I wrote after the second grade and the manual editing of the novel on my grandfather’s roll-top desk.
“We are shocked. I didn’t think this could happen to us,” she said. “At the same time, it took the whole of our town.”
Firefighters on Wednesday had to deal with people who were reluctant to leave. Their refusal meant that firefighters spent valuable time loading people into cars and transporting them by ferry, said Jake Kagle, chief of case management operations.
“We have firefighters with their guns pulled out because people don’t want to evacuate,” he said.
The flame that broke out on July 21 was the largest burning in California, blackening over 504 square miles (1,305 square kilometers), which is larger than Los Angeles. The cause is under investigation, but Pacific Gas & Electric states that a spark may have occurred when a tree fell on one of the power lines.
The fire broke out near the town of Paradise. Paradise was largely destroyed by the 2018 wildfire, making it the most deadly in the country in at least a century and blaming PG & E equipment.
Ken Donnel left Greenville on Wednesday and thought he would be back soon after finishing some errands in some towns, but couldn’t because of the flames. He said he now has only the clothes on his back and his old pickup truck. He is quite convinced that his office and home with bags prepared for evacuation are gone.
Donnell recalled that about 100 friends helped victims of the 2018 devastating campfire that lost their homes.
“Now, 1000 friends lose their homes in a day,” he said.
By Thursday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire was the sixth-largest fire in state history. Four of the state’s five other largest fires broke out in 2020.
The fire pushed Lassen Volcanic National Park close to visitors.
Dozens of homes were already on fire before the new flames broke out on Wednesday. According to the US Forest Office, firefighters saved about a quarter of Green Building’s buildings, according to initial reports.
“We did everything we could,” said fire spokesman Mitch Matrow. “Sometimes that’s not enough.”
According to officials, 35-40 homes and other buildings were burned down in a fast-moving riverfire on Wednesday near the town of Corfax, about 100 miles (160 km) south. .. Within hours, it tore almost 4 square miles (10 square kilometers) of dry brushes and wood. There was no containment and about 6,000 people were ordered to evacuate in Placer and Nevada counties, Calfire said.
In Corfax, Jamie Brown had breakfast at a downtown restaurant on Thursday while waiting to find out if his house was still standing.
He evacuated his property near Lake Rollins the day before when “the whole town seemed to burn down.” By Thursday the conditions had settled down a bit and he wanted the best.
“I think it’s better to have a good breakfast before you lose your house,” he said.
After the progress of firefighters earlier this week, high heat, low humidity and gusts were expected to occur on Wednesday as a continuous threat.
The wind was expected to turn many times on Thursday, putting pressure on firefighters in the fire section, which had been inactive for several days, officials said.
The trees, grass and brushes were so dry that “if the embers land, you are virtually guaranteed to start a new fire,” Matrow said.
Historical droughts associated with heat waves and climate change make it difficult to fight wildfires in the western United States. Scientists say climate change has made the region much warmer and drier, more extreme weather, and more frequent and destructive wildfires over the last three decades.
About 150 miles (240 km) west of the Dixie fire, a thunderstorm McFarland fire threatened a remote home along the Trinity River in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. After burning nearly 33 square miles (85 square kilometers) of drought-stricken vegetation, there was little fire containment.
Dangerous weather was expected in Southern California, and heat recommendations and warnings were issued to inland valleys, mountains and deserts for most of the week.
According to the National Inter-Ministry Fire Center, more than 20,000 firefighters and support personnel were fighting 97 wildfires covering 2,919 square miles (7,560 square kilometers) in 13 states in the United States.
Weber reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press writers Janie Har and Jocelyn Gecker from San Francisco also contributed.
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