Wildfires still raging in Northern California as gusty winds bring threat of flareup

Thousands of fire personnel continue to battle the month-old Dixie Fire, which has burned 569,707 acres


Michael McGough
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Major wildfires continue to burn actively in California, as forecasters warn gusty winds coming this week could produce yet another round of critical fire weather.

Thousands of fire personnel continue to battle the month-old Dixie Fire, which is burning primarily in Butte and Plumas counties. The blaze has burned 569,707 acres (890 square miles), with containment stalled at 31%, Cal Fire reported in a Monday morning update. It is California's second-largest wildfire ever recorded.

The Dixie Fire burns along a hillside near Taylorsville in Plumas County, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. The fire destroyed multiple homes in the area earlier in the day.
The Dixie Fire burns along a hillside near Taylorsville in Plumas County, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. The fire destroyed multiple homes in the area earlier in the day. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Dixie Fire has destroyed close to 1,200 buildings, at least 625 of which were homes, according to Cal Fire. It largely leveled the town of Greenville earlier this month.

A sprawling list of evacuation orders remains, largely in Plumas County but also in areas of Lassen and Tehama counties. Voluntary evacuation warnings are in effect for some Butte County communities. Lassen Volcanic National Park in Shasta County is closed. Detailed information on evacuation zones and closures is available via Cal Fire's incident webpage.

Cal Fire officials in Monday's situation report wrote that smoke activity helped dampen fire activity overnight, but that "an anticipated wind event" was expected Monday over the fire zone, where forecasts call for triple-digit heat combining with gusts up to 30 mph.

The National Weather Service also as of Monday morning had a fire weather watch — one step below a red flag warning — in place from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 8 p.m. Wednesday, covering much of the northern Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills, including most of Butte and Plumas counties.

In response to the gusty conditions, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. issued a warning Sunday night saying it may black out power to as many as 39,000 homes and businesses in parts of 16 counties.

The Dixie Fire's cause officially remains under investigation, but PG&E in a filing to state regulators acknowledged the involvement of their equipment, writing that an employee spotted a "healthy green tree" leaning up against a conductor on one of the utility company's power poles.

No fatalities have been reported in connection with the Dixie Fire. At least three first responders have been injured, Cal Fire says.

More than 6,500 firefighters are assigned to the incident.

Trinity County wildfires

Two large fires in Trinity County that ignited during a late July lightning storm continue to burn and prompt evacuation warnings: the Monument Fire and the McFarland Fire.

Shasta-Trinity National Forest officials as of Monday morning reported the Monument Fire at more than 97,000 acres with 10% containment. Mandatory evacuations are in effect for numerous communities: Junction City, Red Hill, Canyon Creek, Coopers Bar, Big Bar, Del Loma, Big Flat, Helena, Cedar Flat, and Burnt Ranch.

The McFarland Fire, which is nearly 52,000 acres with 68% containment, flared up Sunday, prompting new evacuation orders south of a stretch of Highway 36 east of Platina, Shasta-Trinity National Forest officials in a social media post late Sunday night.

The Forest Service says at least 11 people have been injured by the McFarland Fire.

Caldor Fire

A fire burning in rough terrain in Eldorado National Forest has grown to 754 acres, the Forest Service said in a Monday morning update, up from 400 acres Sunday evening. It remains 0% contained.

The Caldor Fire sparked Saturday in the Middle Fork Cosumnes River Canyon, about four miles south of Grizzly Flats.

Officials warned that Monday's weather conditions could create increased fire activity.

Mandatory orders are in place by the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office in a 1.5-mile radius around the fire. Evacuation warnings are in effect for parts of the communities of Omo Ranch and Leoni Meadows.

The Forest Service said residents in those communities should be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice.

The Forest Service said air tankers could not operate on the fire Sunday due to smoke.

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(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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