California’s single largest wildfire flame in history, the “Dixie Fire,” is causing widespread disaster in the state. Around 400 homes and other structures have been burned to the ground by the fire that has been sweeping through hundreds of square miles of dry woodland and brush since July 13.
The Dixie Fire, named after the road it was ignited on, posed deadly threat to thousands of homes as it burned through more than 700 square miles in Northern California’s Lassen, Tehama, Butte, and Plumas counties. Less than a quarter of the fire (21 percent) has been contained. Dixie Fire has burned an area bigger than the city of Houston.
Last year’s August Complex Fire, which charred more than 1 million acres, is the only reported fire bigger than Dixie. It was formed by the combination of over 30 fires, all of which were ignited from lightning.
According to state fire officials, the Dixie Fire is threatening around 14,000 structures in northern Sierra Nevada. An old mining town, Greenville, located around 150 miles north of Sacramento, has been almost completely destroyed. 370 structures were burned down in the town. “We knew we didn’t get enough rainfall and fires could happen, but we didn’t expect a monster like this,” Kesia Studebaker, a resident of Greenville, said to USA Today.
So far no deaths have been reported as a consequence of the fire. Five people were missing as of Saturday afternoon. The Plumas County Sheriff’s office stated that two of the missing people had been reported safe.
Although the origin of the fire is still being investigated, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) speculates that it may have started as the result of a tree falling on one of the utility’s power lines. A federal judge instructed PG&E to provide details about the equipment and vegetation in the area where the fire is believed to have started. The information is to be submitted by August 16.
Smoke rising from the massive fires continued to make its way into areas of Colorado and Utah, causing a major deterioration in air quality in many of the surrounding areas. Salt Lake City and Denver were reported to be the areas most affected, with air quality in these regions temporarily turning into one of the worst in the world.
“Our hearts ache for this town. Though this moment may seem insurmountable, we’ll be there to help you rebuild,” Governor Gavin Newsom said as he surveyed the damage.
After decimating Greenville, the Dixie fire is now posing a major threat to Crescent Mills, a small town just three miles southeast. Currently, around five thousand firefighters are battling the fire and they are facing an unprecedented challenge.
“We’re seeing fire activity that even veteran firefighters haven’t seen in their career. So we’re just in really unchartered territory,” Cal Fire spokesperson Edwin Zuniga said to The Washington Post.
According to National Interagency Fire Center, 15 states in the United States are experiencing wildfires. The 107 large fires blazing across the country have reduced more than two million acres to ash.