- WInds died down Friday, but that left smoke lingering in the air.
- The fire destroyed much of the town of Greenville.
- Evacuation orders remain in place in four counties.
The relentless wildfire that raged through the town of Greenville, California, destroyed dozens of buildings in its path, according to an update Saturday.
A damage map from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is dotted in red, showing about 100 buildings destroyed in Greenville and the immediate surrounding area.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or death, but a Facebook post from the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office said eight people were unaccounted for. Sixteen others previously on the list had been located.
Firefighters in Northern California got a reprieve Friday from high winds that fanned the flames of the blaze, known as the Dixie Fire, but the stagnant conditions brought their own problems.
The stable air caused smoke to settle in the area of the Dixie Fire, limiting the abilities of firefighting aircraft, Mitch Matlow, a spokesman for Cal Fire, told weather.com in a phone interview Friday.
“We don’t have winds, that’s good. The bad news is it’s difficult for the air crews to do their job if they cannot see the ground, can’t see the fire,” Matlow said. “Each change in weather brings its own challenges.”
The fire is the third largest ever recorded in California as of Friday. In all, the blaze has burned more than 698 square miles and was 21% contained as of Saturday morning.
Flames from the fire left little behind little but charred ruins in Greenville, a community of 800 people about 115 miles north of Sacramento.
Dan Kearns, a volunteer firefighter who battled the fire as it burned through the town Wednesday, said crews tried to save what they could.
But their efforts were futile.
“I felt very helpless and frustrated. The whole point is to help and there was very little to do,” Kearns told weather.com Thursday evening. “We would move to houses we thought we could save, and that didn’t work.”
Kearns lives in the nearby town of Taylorsville, which earlier the same day came under a mandatory evacuation order.
At one point his crew decided to see if they could have more success in another area.
“We moved out of the way, out of town and kind of regrouped and there was some other houses on the outskirts of town and we went in to try and help them but it was just spreading too hot, too fast,” Kearns said. “I went in and was pumping water to two different engines and they were getting hose around the houses, some houses, but it was just spreading too fast for us to keep up with. We got some water on the fire but then it would just get into the house next door before we could do anything.”
The same smoke that’s stagnated in the air is also moving across the atmosphere.
“Some of the more dense smoke has now reached the Bay Area and has swept as far east as Salt Lake City, western Wyoming, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and western Colorado,” weather.com senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman said.
Gusty winds could return to the area Sunday afternoon, Erdman said, followed by more high temperatures.
“Unfortunately, another heat wave is expected to arrive by the middle of next week that could last into the following week,” he said.
Crews hadn’t yet been able to assess the damage in Greenville as of Friday afternoon, but photos and videos showed widespread devastation. Street lights were melted, historic buildings gutted and homes flattened.
“My heart is crushed by what has occurred there,” Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns, a lifelong resident of Greenville, said in a briefing Thursday night.
The Dixie Fire had already destroyed dozens other buildings since it started about three weeks ago. The cause of the fire was still under investigation.
Some 5,222 personnel are assigned to the blaze, with two dozen helicopters and more than 600 vehicles including fire engines, water tenders and heavy equipment.
Multiple evacuation orders and warnings remained in place across four counties Friday – Plumas, Butte, Lassen and Tehama.
Fire officials are pleading with residents to heed the order to leave.
“The people who are in evacuation order areas should get and stay out,” Matlow said. “People who are under evacuation warnings should be packed and ready to get out.”
He reminded everyone to pay close attention to local conditions, fire boundaries and road closures and not to rely on a GPS to tell them where to go when leaving.
The Dixie Fire is one of at least 107 large fires actively burning in the U.S., mostly in the west, where dry vegetation, heat and wind are contributing to dangerous fire conditions.
Here’s a look at some of the others:
-The River Fire remained at about 4 square miles in size and 30% contained Friday morning. Evacuation orders remained in place in parts of Placer and Nevada counties, where the fire is burning near Colfax about 43 miles northeast of Sacramento. In two days the River Fire has destroyed 88 structures and damaged 20 others, according to Cal Fire. Three people were reported to be injured.
-The Bootleg Fire in Oregon is the second largest fire burning in the nation behind the Dixie Fire, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. It’s charred about 646 square miles in the southern part of the state near Klamath Falls. The fire was 87% contained as of Friday, after destroying more than 160 homes, 247 outbuildings and 342 vehicles, KPTV reported. The blaze was sparked by lightning on July 6.
-More than two dozen large fires are burning in Montana, the most of any state. The largest, Trail Creek, has chewed through more than 56 square miles since it was sparked by lightning on July 8 and was 22% contained as of Thursday.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.