People living in the scenic forests of Northern California faced a weekend of fear when massive wildfires threatened to burn thousands of homes to the ground.
The Dixie Fire, which has been burning for three weeks and incinerated much of the city of Greenville in the Gold Rush era this week, threatened more than 10,000 buildings in the northern Sierra Nevada. It had swallowed an area larger than the size of New York City.
It was the largest current wildland fire in the nation and the third largest in California’s recorded history, according to the state fire and forest protection department.
The wind-driven flames destroyed dozens of homes and most of downtown Greenville on Wednesday and Thursday, and also severely damaged Canyondam, a village with a population of about three dozen people. The fire reached Chester, but crews managed to protect homes and businesses there, authorities said.
Charlene Mays kept her gas station in Chester open for as long as she could, telling tired firefighters not to apologize for the ash trail left by her boots on the ground. But when the small town on the northwestern shore of Lake Almanor lost power, Mays decided it was time for him to leave.
She ran home to grab a box of valuables, including her husband’s class ring and some jewelry. The smoke was so thick it was hard to breathe. Chunks of ash broke when hitting the ground, making a sound like broken glass.
That happened two days ago. Since then, Mays has been living in the Lassen College parking lot in Susanville. Her husband stayed behind to maintain some water tanks used by the firefighters. It’s just her, a miniature chihuahua pinscher named Jedidiah, and a pit bull named Bear.
His house was still standing on Friday, but his fate was determined by the direction of the wind. She was not alone.
“I probably have 30 of my regulars right here,” he said.
The Dixie fire, named for the highway where it started, now spans an area of 679 square miles and was only 21% contained on Friday. No injuries or deaths have been reported.
The weather at the fire site was expected to have higher humidity and calmer winds Saturday with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the 40 mph gusts and triple-digit highs recorded earlier in the week.
But the fire and neighboring fires, within a couple hundred miles of each other, posed a continuing threat.
Heat waves and historic drought linked to the climate crisis have made wildfires more difficult to fight in the western United States.
Scientists say climate collapse has made the region much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
Smoke from the fires covered central California and western Nevada, causing air quality to deteriorate to very unhealthy levels and, in some areas, to the worst levels in the world as measured by the World War II Index. Air Quality, especially in Plumas County, about 170 miles north of Sacramento, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Air quality advisories spread throughout the San Joaquin Valley and as far west as the San Francisco Bay Area, where residents were urged to keep windows and doors closed.
California is on track to get over last year, which had the worst fire season in the state’s recent recorded history.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 6,000 fires have destroyed more than 1,260 square miles, more than triple the losses for the same period in 2020, according to state fire figures.
In addition to climate change and sloppy forest management, utility company Pacific Gas & Electric’s transmission lines often start fires, possibly including the Dixie one.
The Dixie Fire ignited less than 10 miles from the start of the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest in California history, also started by PG&E crews, in the dense canyon of the Feather River, 100 miles north of the capital. of the state, Sacramento. The Camp Fire destroyed the cities of Paradise and Concow and killed 85 people.
The raging California wildfires were among more than 100 large and active fires burning in 14 states, mostly in the west, where historic drought conditions have left land dry and ready for ignition.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism