Northern California continues to reel under blazing forest fires. Ten days ago, the town of Greenville was decimated by Dixie, the nation’s largest wildfire. Officials have warned of new blazes erupting across the West due to highly unstable weather conditions.
Thunderstorms that moved into the region on Friday posed a new headache to firefighting efforts. The storms failed to produce any substantial rainfall and instead generated winds and lightning strikes all over the northern Sierra where firefighters have been battling the Dixie Fire.
On Saturday, Janesville was threatened as high-speed winds with speeds of 50 miles per hour directed the fires towards it. Janesville is a small town with a population of 1,500 people, just east of the town of Greenville.
James Reiche was evacuated from his home when the Dixie fire-ravaged Greenville. He has been living in a trailer with his dog outside the Spring of Hope Christian Fellowship Church Shelter for the past ten days. Although his home miraculously survived the fires, he does not have access to it as the roads are all closed.
In an interview with Associated Press, Reiche said that he sympathizes with his neighbors at the evacuation center who have lost everything to the fires.
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“These are all people who either don’t have a home or don’t have access to a home. I still have a house standing, no damage. But I can’t get into it,” he said.
U.S. Forest Services stated that it was operating in crisis mode and was using all its resources to keep the situation in control. Deputy Forester for the Pacific Southwest, Anthony Scardina, told Al Jazeera that there are 21,000 firefighters currently working on the ground. That’s double the number of firefighters deployed to control the forest fires last year. Over 6,000 firefighters have been assigned to fight Dixie.
Firefighters were able to contain fires that had swept its way through vast rangelands and were, at one point, threatening the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.
Peggy Miller, the spokeswoman for fire officials, said the cause of the fires was the heat generated by coal seams, which are coal deposits in the ground. She stated that mandatory evacuation for the tribal headquarters town of Lame Deer would continue as a result of deteriorating air quality.
On Tuesday, the Dixie Fire was making its way to the city of Susanville, a former mining and logging town, home to 15,000 people. The area in and around Janesville, located 12 miles southeast of Susanville, was evacuated on Monday evening. The fire has burnt over 578,000 acres of land. As of August 17, only 31 percent of the fire has been contained.
The Dixie Fire is just one among one hundred wildfires raging across the West. California’s utility company Pacific Gas & Electric has announced that it might be forced to shut down power for 48,000 customers in 18 counties to prevent power lines from triggering more wildfires.