QUINCY (CBS SF) — While fire crews battled flames advancing toward Jonesville on the northeastern edge of the massive Dixie Fire early Saturday, their counterparts along the eastern edge were confronted with “borderline extreme fire behavior” as the blaze grew to 181,289 acres.
Ten structures have been destroyed and 7,010 structures are threatened.READ MORE: Flames Reach Ancient Sequoias; Crews in Pitched Battle to Save Giant Forest Grove
Just before 1 p.m. Saturday, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents on the north side of Chandler Road, from Oakland Camp Road to Highway 70 east.
The Dixie Fire is now the 19th largest fire in California recorded history.
As of Saturday afternoon, containment had grown only slightly to 19 percent with more than 4,200 personnel assigned to the fire.
There are actually three fires burning in the region. There is the Dixie Fire, a large spot blaze ignited by the Dixie Fire and the Fly Fire.
The most intense firefight was taking place on the east zone of the blaze where the three fires were moving ever closer to merging together.
Dennis Burns, the fire behavior analyst on the east zone, said during his Saturday morning briefing that the flames had grown overnight to 15-20 foot high in an area south of Highway 70 near the Greenville Y.
Without air support, the firefighters were forced to fall back as the fire intensified. Conditions did not begin easing until around 2 a.m.
“The fire was very active all night long, borderline extreme fire behavior,” Burns said. “It was running through the crowns. Multiple group tree torching.”
Quincy, Butterfly Valley and Twain remained threatened by the fire.
In the west zone of the fire, the main action took place near Jonesville and Butte Meadows, forcing residents to evacuate their homes.
“The fire’s spread west continued at multiple locations during different parts of the day,” said west zone operations chief Mike Wink. “With the fire spread going toward Jonesville and Butte Meadows, that’s what made the leadership… (decide) we have to do (evacuate) Jonesville and Butte Meadows.”
Wink described the region as “rugged, difficult terrain. Heavy fuels.”READ MORE: Woman Fatally Shot, Another Wounded Outside Pittsburg 7-Eleven Store
Five pyrocumulus plumes within the Dixie Fire.
Remarkable hi-res view of a fire burning 20,000+ acres, just today. pic.twitter.com/DYSDqVe8US
— Dakota Smith (@weatherdak) July 24, 2021
Meanwhile over the last 24 hours, fire crews lit back blazes to create a defensible line to prevent the advancing flames from moving into the populated areas along the western shore of Lake Almandor.
The fire threat has forced thousands from their homes in small communities in Plumas, Butte and Tehama counties over the last week. Among them is Kylie Ojers, who is hoping the flames will spare her house. At least 10 of the 1,510 structures threatened by the fire have been destroyed.
“We were evacuated Monday,” she said. “It was more than 20 miles away and now it’s within four miles of our house…It’s going right in the direction of our house.”
William Helt was also forced from his home.
“It was raining ash, it was just dark skies, everyone kind of had this worried ominous feeling, you know, it was, you could tell there was panic,” he said of his exodus from the fire zone. “I just hoped there’s a house to go back to.”
Cal Fire meteorologist Julia Ruthford said the fire was experiencing ever changing weather conditions.
On Saturday night, the winds will shift to the northeast as the famed ‘Jarbo Winds’ howl through the fire zone. The Feather River Canyon is well-known for high winds and these are named after the nearby Jarbo Gap.
“Those are going to be enhanced because of the high temperatures down on the valleys,” Ruthford said. “The gusts will be in 25-35 mph range.”
Chris Waters, a Cal Fire fire behaviorist, said the fuels in the area are at historically dry levels for July.MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Outage Number Drops; Thousands in East Bay Still Without Power
“We are at conditions we would not see until late September or October…right now we are in mid-July,” he said. “That means that all these fuels that are on the ground, particularly the large dead fuels, are already at critical levels and fully available to burn unimpeded.”