Greenville, a town in Northern California has been nearly completely destroyed after the Dixie Fire charged through late Wednesday. The state’s largest wildfire tore through the downtown, destroying historic buildings and prompting panicked evacuations in a dramatic scene of destruction.
“If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!!” the Plumas County Sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook Wednesday evening. “If you remain, emergency responders may not be able to assist you.”
The fast-growing Dixie Fire has left much of a Northern California community in ruins, engulfing buildings and leaving behind hollowed-out frames on stretches of scorched road.
The state’s largest wildfire, which has burned for more than three weeks, grew to more than 322,500 acres as of Thursday morning amid a red-flag warning — indicating the risk of “extreme fire behavior” caused by hot, dry and windy conditions.
Total destruction of Greenville
The fire tore through Greenville, a town with a population of less than 1,000. The community, which dates back to California’s Gold Rush era, was ordered to evacuate earlier in the week as firefighters tried to protect buildings from the advancing flames.
“I can tell you a good portion of the town of Greenville was destroyed,” said Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart. “I don’t know if it’s half or more or less, but there were pretty heavy losses.”
By Wednesday evening, the Dixie Fire had turned parts of Greenville’s downtown into piles of rubble. Videos of the area posted on social media showed buildings reduced to mounds of charred metal and ash and flames lingering in empty brick frames. One video showed firefighters hosing down the Plumas Bank in Greenville, which was still standing.
Officials on Wednesday urged residents to flee, shifting efforts to helping residents evacuate as the flames approached.
“If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!!” the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook. “If you remain, emergency responders may not be able to assist you.”
These are not the normal fires anymore
The fire is one of 100 active large blazes in the United States, mostly torching parts of Western states that have been plagued by exceptional heat and drought. Those tinderbox conditions have fueled historically large wildfires in what’s anticipated to be a severe fire season in California.
“These are not the normal fires anymore,” Jake Cagle, an operations section chief, said late Wednesday during a briefing on the Dixie Fire. “You need to make sure you’re minding those mandatory evacuations. You need to get out.”
Cagle said there had not been an “imminent threat” to Greenville earlier in the day. Many residents chose not to evacuate, he said. But by late afternoon the fire grew more intense. No civilian or firefighter injuries or fatalities had been reported as of Thursday morning.
The Dixie Fire is not the first to hit Greenville; the town suffered a devastating fire in 1881 that destroyed many buildings on the north side of its Main Street, according to a local organization, the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship.
“We lost Greenville tonight,” LaMalfa said in video posted on Facebook. “ … We have to stop making this happen by paying attention to what is obvious. Camp Fire, Carr Fire … now this. We’ve got to do better.”
And the worst is still to come
Meanwhile, another nearby blaze — the River Fire — had grown rapidly in less than a day, forcing thousands to evacuate.
The Dixie Fire’s sudden swell this week forced mandatory evacuation orders to expand north of Greenville and Lake Almanor, a resort community that is home to people who were displaced by the deadly 2018 Camp Fire.
Homes and buildings in the nearby community of Chester, which had also been ordered to evacuate, were sprayed with fire retardant as the blaze threatened the area.
Carhart said that even as firefighters work to defend structures as flames approach, they will pull back if it becomes unsafe.
“Our crews get in these places where the fires are coming through. They set up structure protection activities. But if a point comes where it is not safe for our firefighters to be in there, we pull them out,” he said.
The cause of the Dixie Fire, which sparked July 13, is under investigation. Pacific Gas and Electric, California’s largest utility, noted that some of its equipment may have played a role in sparking the fire, as well as the smaller Fly Fire, which later merged with the Dixie Fire.
In Nevada and Placer counties, about 100 miles south of the Dixie Fire, the River Fire grew rapidly to 2,400 acres as of Thursday after starting early Wednesday. The fire was not contained at all as of Thursday morning.
Nearly 16,000 people were under evacuation orders across the state for all the fires burning in California as of Thursday morning, including more than 7,700 people under evacuation orders in Butte, Tehama and Plumas counties and nearly 7,300 people under evacuation orders in Placer and Nevada counties, according to the California governor’s office of emergency services.
Placer County Sheriff Devon Bell warned residents: “If you’re ordered to go, get out.”
A resident told the Sacramento Bee that the shop she runs was consumed by the flames, as were many other buildings in the town.
“The town is completely gone. The town has been devastated and leveled,” Eva Gorman told the Bee. “There’s nothing left, almost nothing left of the town.”
The fire is one of dozens burning across the West in what has been a fire season from hell. And the worst is likely still ahead for California. [WP]
Now subscribe to this blog to get more amazing news curated just for you right in your inbox on a daily basis (here an example of our new newsletter).
You should really subscribe to QFiles. You will get very interesting information about strange events around the world.