QUINCY (CBS SF) — Strong downdrafts and pop-up thundershowers slowed progress over the weekend on the stubborn eastern edge of the massive Dixie Fire as the blaze grew to 244,888 acres in rural Butte and Plumas counties with 32 percent containment.
Fire officials said the blaze has now destroyed at least 67 structures including 42 homes. Cabins around Rush Creek have been protected by control lines and firefighters were working to prevent any further movement to the north.READ MORE: Downsized But Not Out, Dreamforce Conference Set to Boost Business in San Francisco
“Fire behavior is expected to increase through the day as west winds persist and drying trends begin,” officials said in a Sunday morning fire update. “There is a low risk of isolated thunderstorms, bringing a chance of gusty winds this afternoon. Crews continue watching for wind carried embers, which may ignite spot fires along control lines.”
Gusty winds and thundershowers caused issues along the eastern edge on Saturday.
“Everything was going great them we got some downdrafts, some thunderstorms and it made things get a little exciting out there,” said Dennis Burns, the fire behavior analyst for the East zone. “Right now everything is going well despite the fact it looks like it’s snowing (from falling ash) in Quincy.
The fire column of smoke reached about 21,000 feet just northwest of the Bucks Lake wilderness area.READ MORE: Flames Reach Ancient Sequoias; Crews in Pitched Battle to Save Giant Forest Grove
“There is an effect called the fire-on-fire effect that made the fire get very active,” Burns said. “The result being we have several spot fires.”
Burns said relative humidity levels would be increasing overnight and help firefighters hold the spot fires in check.
On Sunday morning, Burns said firefighters were trying to strengthen the lines because a significant change in the weather was on the way.
“What we are concerned about,” he said. “We are going into a warmer, drier period. Very similar to when this fire first ignited. So we are trying to get everything buttoned up because we are looking at some very significant fire potential in the next few days.
On the fire’s West zone, crews have made steady progress with containment. Evacuation orders and warnings were lifted for several remote areas and communities.MORE NEWS: PG&E Says Light Rain After Long Drought Led to Lights-Out Across Bay Area
The cause of the blaze, which ignited July 13, was still under investigation.