Dixie Fire expands to nearly 200K acres, merges with Fly Fire


BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — Fire crews continue to battle the erratic Dixie Fire along the burn scar of the disastrous 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, California, about 80 miles north of Sacramento.

Over the weekend, the Dixie Fire merged with the nearby Fly Fire, which started Thursday. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said it’s become the 15th largest wildfire in the state’s history.

Pacific Gas & Electric has reported to California utility regulators that its equipment may have been involved in the Dixie Fire’s start.

PG&E equipment has been linked to previous wildfires, including the Camp Fire that ravaged the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

The fire’s erratic behavior has fire crews concerned.

More than 10,000 structures are threatened by the fire, which is bordered by the Union Pacific Rail Line and Highway 70. Sixteen structures have been destroyed, six minor structures have been destroyed and one structure has been damaged.

Cal Fire said there is a chance for isolated thunderstorms to hit the area later this week.

Crews have had to battle the blaze mostly from the air due to difficult terrain, and narrow roads into the fire area have been closed to all but fire personnel. 

Cal Fire said the highly active fire continues to put off heavy smoke. At times, it makes the firefight difficult from the air. The fire is even generating weather, causing dangerous conditions for fire crews on the ground. 

“When the hot gases move very rapidly up, something has to replace those gases. Air rushes in from all around to fill that space, which means we get high winds at ground level,” Mitch Matlow, the public information officer for the Dixie Fire, told NewsNation affiliate KTXL. 

Spot fires are also causing problems for fire crews. 

In some places where firefighters are not able to access the flames by road, they’re using Union Pacific engines, with water tanks in the front and back. The engines travel the tracks on the west side of the Feather River, which also provides a convenient water source for helicopters.

Because evacuation orders and warnings are changing frequently, Cal Fire is directing residents to the social media pages of local law enforcement and forest management.

Officials shared an evacuation map, with areas in red representing mandatory evacuations and the yellow areas being evacuation warning zones.

Lassen National Forest and Plumas National Forest officials have also issued closures.

All highway closures are being reported by Caltrans on its website.

Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Plumas Butte, Lassen and Alpine counties because of wildfires that he said were causing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.” The proclamation opened the way for more state support.

Such conditions are often from a combination of unusual random, short-term and natural weather patterns heightened by long-term, human-caused climate change. Global warming has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years.

The Associated Press, Reuters contributed to this report.

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