GREENVILLE, Calif. — The largest wildfire in California this year “catastrophically destroyed” the gold rush town of Greenville on Wednesday night, then forced the closure of a national park on Thursday while also chasing residents from their homes across the northern Sierra Nevada region.
The Dixie Fire, now the sixth-largest blaze in the state’s modern history, has been burning for three weeks and spreading in Northern California’s Plumas, Butte, Lassen and Tehama counties. Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns said more than 100 homes were destroyed in the area.
Dixie Fire public information officer Tim Jones told the USA TODAY Network on Thursday that the fire’s growth Wednesday was driven by high winds and fed by dry fuels amid red flag conditions. The scope of Thursday’s destruction would become clearer overnight, Jones said.
“In the morning we’ll have a better estimate of that from the infrared flight that we’ll do tonight,” he said, adding that Friday promises to be “another day and afternoon of explosive fire growth.”
Jones said that fire crews have no knowledge of any casualties at this time and that their main priority is protecting the lives and structures that are ahead of the fire’s path.
“What you can expect tomorrow is that the fire map will look significantly different once the new growth gets put on the map,” Jones said. “The other thing you can expect is that firefighters will remain with that priority of human life and doing everything we can to stop this fire.”
Firefighters prepared for another explosive run of flames Thursday, fueled by strong wind gusts and bone dry vegetation caused by the drought. Red flag weather conditions of high heat, low humidity and a gusty afternoon, with winds as strong as 35 mph, were expected to be a continued threat through Thursday night.