An out-of-control wildfire roared through an historic Northern California town Wednesday evening, destroying most of the downtown area and leaving smoldering ruins of residents’ homes in its wake.
The Dixie Fire, which has been raging for more than 3 weeks fueled by water-starved vegetation and fierce winds, gutted the community of Greenville, a town that traces its roots back to the days of the California Gold Rush. Many centuries-old structures were completely lost, and Plumas County Supervisor Kevin Goss wrote on Facebook that the blaze “Burnt down our entire downtown. Our historical buildings, families, homes, small businesses, and our children’s schools are completely lost.”
Fire crews were bracing for another outbreak of flames Thursday due to more dangerous weather heading to the area. The county sheriff’s office has issued a warning to the town’s approximately 800 residents to evacuate as soon as possible. “We lost Greenville tonight,” U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents the area, noted in a heart-wrenching Facebook video. “There are just no words,” he concluded.
The intense fire, which has caused widespread devastation according to the sheriff’s department, is the state’s largest current wildfire and has blackened more than 504 square miles, a territory larger than the city of Los Angeles. The growing threat has forced the mountain community of nearby Taylorville to receive a similar evacuation order as flames pushed southeast in their direction.
At Lassen Volcanic National Park, visitors were told to leave and that the park was being shut down due to the massive fire. Rangers were sweeping the trails in a last-minute attempt to ensure that no remaining visitors were left inside. Ranger Kevin Sweeney said they are doing a clean sweep of the campsites and trails because “We want to be ready for when firefighting needs to happen in the park and not have any intrusions for them.”
The fire is currently on the east side of the park in the Warner Valley and Juniper Lakes area, he said. Those areas have been closed since last month because there is only one way in and one way out and at that time, the flames were about a dozen miles southeast of the national park, he added.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, but Pacific Gas & Electric has said it may have been sparked when a tree fell on one of its power lines.