The Dixie Fire raged through the northern Sierra Nevada community of Greenville, California, Wednesday night, destroying much of the historic Gold Rush-era mining town. Many of the structures that burned were more than a century old, including an historic gas station, hotel and bar completely gutted by the fire.
“We lost Greenville tonight,” U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents Greenville, said in an emotional Facebook video. “There’s just no words.”
Plumas County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning on Facebook telling Greenville’s 800 residents: “You are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!”
CAL FIRE could not contain the Dixie Fire after fighting it for three weeks. The state’s largest wildfire has already burned more than 504 square miles.
“We did everything we could,” fire spokesman Mitch Matlow said. “Sometimes it’s just not enough.”
Roughly 5,000 firefighters made progress on the fire earlier in the week, saving some homes, but 40 mph winds thwarted their efforts, emboldening the fire to overtake the town. Firefighters were able to surround only a third of the perimeter in three weeks time.
On Wednesday, the fire grew by thousands of acres, resulting in several counties issuing evacuation orders impacting nearly 26,500 people, Matlow said.
Through Thursday, the region was expected to see 30-40 mph winds for roughly six to 10 hours, CBS News weather producer David Parkinson forecasted. Wind, which acts as a catalyst, has helped create new fires by pushing embers on dry grass, brush and trees.
In addition to these conditions, the fires were burning parallel to a canyon, which created conditions like a chimney, making the canyon so hot that massive pyrocumulus columns of smoke poured out. The clouds, coupled with the wind and dry heat, helped make the fire worse, or “critically erratic,” making it harder to fight and predict the direction of growth, Matlow said.
The Dixie Fire isn’t the only problem CAL FIRE is facing. Lightning reportedly sparked the McFarland Fire 150 miles west of where the Dixie Fire is raging, threatening homes nestled along the Trinity River in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. That fire has already burned 25 square miles and is only 5% contained.
Roughly 100 miles south, between 35 and 40 homes and other structures are burning in the fast-moving River Fire that also broke out on Wednesday near Colfax, a town of roughly 2,000 residents. Within hours, it tore through nearly 4 square miles, prompting 6,000 people in Placer and Nevada counties to be put under evacuation orders, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
So far, more than 580,000 acres have burned in California, more than double the number that burned last year.
This year’s fire season is on track to be the worst California’s seen, CBS News Bradley Blackburn said.
This article was originally posted on Dixie Fire destroys historic mining town of Greenville