The Dixie Fire Turned a California Town Into ‘a Wasteland'

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Surveying the harm  from the Dixie Fire successful  Greenville, Calif., connected  Thursday.
Credit...Josh Edelson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Aug. 6, 2021, 5:12 a.m. ET

After the Dixie Fire destroyed the Gold Rush municipality of Greenville, Calif., section officials said they were hopeful that improving upwind conditions connected Friday would assistance firefighters forestall the blaze from dealing further damage.

At a assemblage gathering connected Thursday night, a meteorologist told residents of threatened towns respective hours northbound of Sacramento that winds were expected to alteration and that the wildfire fume would support temperatures connected the crushed cooler. He said determination was nary motion of the beardown upwind systems that had plagued this week.

But cipher was resting casual aft seeing the demolition that shifting winds had brought to Greenville, a municipality of astir 1,000 people.

“It looks similar a weaponry went off,” said Ryan Meacher, 37, whose father’s location successful Greenville was 1 of galore that burned down. “There is thing left.”

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Mr. Meacher lives successful Grass Valley, which is itself being threatened by the River Fire, and said it was heartbreaking to deliberation astir what was mislaid successful Greenville — the room wherever helium would prime up books and VHS tapes, the pizza spot adjacent doorway with an arcade.

Also destroyed was a charter schoolhouse wherever Kjessie Essue’s hubby works and the Cy Hall Memorial Museum, which covered the past of Indian Valley and which her parents spent hundreds of hours building.

Ms. Essue, 38, lives successful adjacent Taylorsville and evacuated southbound connected Thursday with her Nigerian Dwarf goats, her husband, her 3 young children and her parents, who bash not cognize whether their Greenville location inactive stands.

She said it seemed liked a movie arsenic they packed up, with an alarm blaring and chaotic winds sending a fume plume with a achromatic halfway toward the area.

“Greenville is simply a wasteland,” she said. “It’s surreal.”

Sheriff Todd Johns of Plumas County said astatine the assemblage gathering that determination were nary reported injuries but that the authorities were inactive looking for 4 radical who were unaccounted for. He estimated that the blaze, present the sixth-largest successful recorded California history, had destroyed much than 100 homes successful the area.

“My bosom is crushed by what has occurred there, and to the folks who person mislaid residences and businesses,” said Sheriff Johns, a lifelong Greenville resident.

The Dixie Fire is 35 percent contained and has burned much than 420,000 acres crossed 4 counties. Officials said that the blaze seemed to person spared Chester, burning astir some sides of the municipality disconnected Lake Alomar, but that different communities — Westwood, Chester Mills — person to Greenville remained nether threat.

On Sunday, the authorities had lifted a mandatory evacuation bid for Greenville aft respective days of favorable weather. But past the upwind changed directions 3 times successful 2 days, explosively spreading the Dixie Fire.

“We’re seeing genuinely frightening occurrence behavior, and I don’t cognize however to overstate that,” said Chris Carlton, supervisor for the Plumas National Forest. “We person a batch of seasoned firefighters who person served for 20, 30 years and person ne'er seen behaviour similar this.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a authorities of exigency for 3 counties connected Thursday, noting that “strong winds, precocious temperatures, drought conditions, and adust fuels person further accrued the spread” of the Antelope Fire successful Siskiyou County, connected the Oregon border, and the River Fire successful Nevada and Placer Counties, northeast of Sacramento.

The River Fire, which has grown to 2,600 acres since starting connected Wednesday, has destroyed 76 structures and injured 3 people, including a firefighter. It is 15 percent contained but threatens 3,400 much structures, with 24,000 radical surviving wrong 5 miles of the blaze, according to the New York Times occurrence tracker.

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