- Multiple buildings were destroyed in Greenville, California.
- Community at “a loss for words.”
- The Dixie Fire has consumed more than 500 square miles.
Much of the small town of Greenville, California, sits in charred ruins after flames from a massive and unrelenting wildfire engulfed the community Wednesday night.
“The Dixie Fire burnt down our entire downtown,” Plumas County Supervisor Kevin Goss wrote Thursday on Facebook. “Our historical buildings … homes, small businesses, and our children’s schools are completely lost.”
Others were still trying to process what had happened.
“People are absolutely at a loss of words for what has happened,” Chandler Peay, a spokesperson for the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office told weather.com in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
There was no tally of how many homes and other buildings were destroyed, but photos and video showed burned-out businesses and extensive damage to the town of 800 people located about 115 miles north of Sacramento.
“It was quickly overtaken by fire and there is widespread destruction throughout the Greenville proper area,” Peay said. “We don’t have any estimates on specific numbers for structure loss, but It’s going to be significant for that town.”
There were no immediate reports of injuries, deaths or missing persons, he said.
Sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and other personnel assisted some residents who were still in their homes despite an earlier evacuation order. All were ferried to safety, Peay said.
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The Dixie Fire has been burning since July 14 in Plumas and Butte counties, in the mountains of Northern California. It’s consumed more than 500 square miles and had already destroyed 45 homes and other buildings before it hit Greenville, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CalFire.
Another wildfire, burning in Placer and Nevada counties, about 43 miles northeast of Sacramento, destroyed dozens of buildings. The River Fire has only covered about 4 square miles of land but it’s torched more than 50 homes, businesses and other structures, according to CalFire. Another 30 have been damaged. The fire started on Wednesday and was 0% contained as of Thursday morning.
The Dixie Fire, meanwhile, grew to the sixth largest in California history.
It was 35% contained as of Thursday morning, despite growing by about 80 square miles after exploding in gusty winds on Wednesday, a CalFire update said.
Similar conditions are challenging firefighters today. Red flag warnings remain in effect amid dry, windy conditions and the potential for extremely active fire behavior.
While rain isn’t expected, some relief in the form of lighter winds and cooler temperatures is expected in the coming days, weather.com senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman said.
“But a hotter pattern will return by the middle of next week that could last a while. And we’re still over two months away from the return of the wet season in Northern California.”
The fire’s also being fed by extremely dry vegetation amid California’s historic drought.
“The fuels are super receptive to fire,” Cal Fire spokesperson Edwin Zuniga told SFGate. “Any little spark will establish itself and start a new fire.”
Greenville is about 45 miles northeast of Paradise, the town that was wiped out by a wildfire that killed dozens of people in 2018. It’s a town of ranchers and small business owners and historic buildings, some of which were consumed by the flames.
“We did everything we could,” fire spokesman Mitch Matlow told The Associated Press. “Sometimes it’s just not enough.”
The Dixie and River fires are two of 100 large wildfires burning in the U.S., according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That doesn’t include hundreds of other smaller blazes.
Most are in the West where ongoing drought combined with hot and sometimes windy weather make for extremely dangerous fire conditions.
The fires have led to moderate to unhealthy air quality in dozens of locations across the western and middle parts of the country.
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.