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California's Dixie Fire Is Now The 2nd Largest In State History

A burned residence rests in heavy smoke on Friday after being burned by the Dixie fire in Greenville, Calif. The fire is now the second-largest in recorded state history.
Josh Edelson
AFP via Getty Images
A burned residence rests in heavy smoke on Friday after being burned by the Dixie fire in Greenville, Calif. The fire is now the second-largest in recorded state history.

The Dixie Fire in Northern California, which has destroyed hundreds of buildings and whole communities, is now considered the second largest recorded wildfire in state history.

The fire, spanning Butte, Plumas, Lassen, & Tehama counties, has so far burned more than 463,000 acres and is 21% contained, according to CalFire.

In total acreage burned, the Dixie Fire has surpassed 2018's Mendocino Complex fire (459,123 acres) and last year's SCU Lightning Complex fire (396,624 acres) according to CalFire. With over 1 million acres burned in 2020, the August Complex Fire is the only recorded wildfire in California to have consumed more land than the Dixie Fire.

First igniting around July 13, the Dixie Fire had been burning in mostly remote areas. But the situation changed Wednesday as winds quickly sent flames toward communities near Lake Almanor, a popular vacation spot surrounded by small towns.

In recent days, the fire has destroyed most of the communities of Greenville and Canyondam — and threatens nearly 14,000 structures. CalFire said three firefighters have been injured battling the flames, though no fatalities have been reported.

While conditions have improved in the Sierra Mountains, Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns said Saturday that the situation remains somewhat unpredictable.

"As with many wildfires, we have seen erratic behavior with the Dixie Fire," Johns told reporters. "The weather has cooperated for the last few days, but that could change — and we are certainly not in the clear yet."

Four people were unaccounted for in Plumas County as of Sunday morning.

Fourth-generation Greenville resident Teresa Hatch had been evacuated, returned home, and then was once again urged to leave.

"Where do you begin to start over?" Hatch told ABC News through tears. "Look at all these people that are misplaced now. Where are they going to go?"

Climate research has found higher average temperatures are increasing the length of the fire season and the number of places where fires can occur. California fire officials report more than a dozen active wildfires across the state, with more than 100 wildfires burning across the western U.S.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dave Mistich
Originally from Washington, W.Va., Dave Mistich joined NPR part-time as an associate producer for the Newcast unit in September 2019 — after nearly a decade of filing stories for the network as a Member station reporter at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In July 2021, he also joined the Newsdesk as a part-time reporter.

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