GREENVILLE, Plumas County (CBS SF/AP) — The Dixie Fire in Northern California grew by 110 square miles between Thursday night and Friday morning, making the blaze the largest wildfire currently raging in the country.
The Dixie Fire has consumed 432,813 acres in Butte, Plumas, Lassen and Tehama counties – an increase of 71,000 acres from the night before. The Bootleg Fire in Oregon had previously been the nation’s largest active wildfire at 413,765 acres.
The fire is only 35% contained and is expected to grow. It currently stands as California’s third-largest wildfire in history.
At a Thursday night briefing, Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns said there were initially 10 people unaccounted for in the fire. That list had dwindled down to 4 by Thursday evening.
He said the Dixie Fire has destroyed “well over 100 homes” and was a continuing threat to hundreds of others.
Raw Video: Drive Through Of Greenville Devastation
A day after burning most of the Plumas County community of Greenville, the fire continued its advance toward the eastern shore of Lake Almanor, burning more structures in the town of Canyondam. The fire also reached the southern shore of Mountain Meadows Reservoir.
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Fire crews were using engines, hand crews and bulldozers to control spot fires in the Canyondam area as well as to protect structures along Lake Almanor’s east shore, the community of Crescent Mills and the remaining homes in Greenville.
“We do have fire in Canyondam,” said Kyle Jacobson, the east zone incident commander Thursday night. “We have several spot fires in the area. We do have engines, crews and dozers in that area, doing everything they can, trying to prevent further spread.”
Have pulled out of Canyondam due to unsafe conditions. Propane tanks and ammo going off, down power lines, toxic vehicle smoke. I'd say most of the hamlet has been destroyed. I'm numb. #dixiefire. Here post office catches on fire. pic.twitter.com/nWpRfUgF54
— Stuart Palley (@stuartpalley) August 6, 2021
“I’ve been fighting fire for 25 years and this is the most extreme fire behavior I’ve ever been a part of,” said Chico firefighter Mike Watner.
Overnight warm temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds were fueling the fire. Cal Fire said steep terrain, heavy fuel loading, spot fires, and winds were making it difficult for fire crews.
West Zone operations chief Mike Wink said a spot fire has ignited about 5 miles to the northeast ahead of the fire lines.
“The firefight continues on multiple fronts,” he said at the Friday morning briefing. “We do have surge resources in Chester, Westwood and West Almanor. We have extra resources assigned to those general areas so if we have any increased activity in any of those areas… We can send those surge resources there.”
Wink said firefighters have been successful in defending the core neighborhoods in Chester.
The fire’s cause was under investigation, but Pacific Gas & Electric has said it may have been sparked when a tree fell on one of the utility’s power lines.
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The blaze exploded on Wednesday and Thursday through timber, grass and brush so dry that one fire official described it as “basically near combustion.” Dozens of homes had already burned before the flames made new runs.
No deaths or injuries were reported but the fire continued to threaten more than 10,000 homes.
On Thursday, the weather and towering smoke clouds produced by the fire’s intense, erratic winds kept firefighters struggling to put firefighters at shifting hot spots.
“It’s wreaking havoc. The winds are kind of changing direction on us every few hours,” said Capt. Sergio Arellano, a fire spokesman.
“We’re seeing truly frightening fire behavior,” said Chris Carlton, supervisor for Plumas National Forest. “We really are in uncharted territory.”
© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.