Fire engulfs Northern California town, leveling businesses

A pair of horses are evacuated along Dog Bar Road from the River Fire which has burned over 1,000 acres in Nevada County, Calif., Wednesday Aug. 4, 2021. California’s largest wildfire grew Wednesday while thousands of firefighters prepared for a tougher fight as dangerous weather returns.
A large plume from the River Fire fills the air with smoke as the fire burns from the Bear River Campground near Dog Bar Road, and towards Highway 174, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021 in Colfax, Calif. California’s largest wildfire grew Wednesday while thousands of firefighters prepared for a tougher fight as dangerous weather returns.
An air tanker makes a retardant drop over a flank of the River Fire Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021 near Taylor Crossing Road in Nevada County, Calif. California’s largest wildfire grew Wednesday while thousands of firefighters prepared for a tougher fight as dangerous weather returns.
Flames from the River Fire burn vegetation near Taylor Crossing Road near Dog Bar Road Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021 in Grass Valley, Calif. California’s largest wildfire grew Wednesday while thousands of firefighters prepared for a tougher fight as dangerous weather returns.
California_Wildfires_85842 Inmate firefighters prep a home by moving combustible items as the Dixie Fire burns in Chester, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The region is under red flag fire warnings due to dry, windy conditions.
California_Wildfires_20063 Flames consume vehicles in a wrecking yard as the Dixie Fire burns in Chester, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The region is under red flag fire warnings due to dry, windy conditions.
California_Wildfires_74359 Firefighters engage in structure defense as the Dixie Fire burns in Chester, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The region is under red flag fire warnings due to dry, windy conditions.
California_Wildfires_80738 A car leaves Chester, Calif., which is under mandatory evacuation orders, as the Dixie Fire burns on the edge of town on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The region is under red flag fire warnings due to dry, windy conditions.
California_Wildfires_97947 Battalion Chief Sergio Mora watches as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
California_Wildfires_11774 Flames consume buildings as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
California_Wildfires_78936 Battalion Chief Sergio Mora rubs his face as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
California_Wildfires_54631 The Way Station bar burns as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
California_Wildfires_81806 The Way Station bar burns as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
California_Wildfires_14175 Buildings burn as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
Western_Wildfires_08533 Operations Chief Jay Walter moves a light post that was blocking Highway 89 as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community in Plumas County, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
California_Wildfires_81243 A home and trees burn as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
California_Wildfires_64030 A home and trees burn as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
Western_Wildfires_88536 A firefighter battles the Dixie Fire as it tears through the Greenville community in Plumas County, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville.
Dawn Garofalo settles her horses in a temporary enclosure on the shore of Lake Almanor as the Dixie Fire approaches Chester, Calif, on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. Garofalo, whose pickup truck has mechanical problems, planned to ride out the fire on the edge of the lake.
Hunter McKee hugs Dawn Garofalo after helping her evacuate her horses to the edge of Lake Almanor as the Dixie Fire approaches Chester, Calif, on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. Officials issued evacuation orders for the town earlier in the day as dry and windy conditions led to increased fire activity.
Hunter McKee pets Rosy after helping evacuate the horse to the edge of Lake Almanor as the Dixie Fire approaches Chester, Calif, on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. Officials issued evacuation orders for the town earlier in the day as dry and windy conditions led to increased fire activity.
Hunter McKee hugs Dawn Garofalo after helping her evacuate her horses to the edge of Lake Almanor as the Dixie Fire approaches Chester, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. At right, resident Troy Dunker watches smoke billow from the fire.
California_Wildfires_92095 Flames leap above a fire vehicle on Highway 89 as the Dixie Fire burns towards Chester, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The region is under red flag fire warnings due to dry, windy conditions.
Hunter McKee pets Rosy after helping evacuate the horse to the edge of Lake Almanor as the Dixie Fire approaches Chester, Calif, on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. Officials issued evacuation orders for the town earlier in the day as dry and windy conditions led to increased fire activity.
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GREENVILLE, Calif. (AP) — California’s largest wildfire has leveled much of the downtown and some surrounding homes in a small Northern California mountain community.

The Dixie Fire tore through the Greenville on Wednesday evening, destroying businesses and homes as the sky was cast in an orange glow. A photographer on assignment for The Associated Press described seeing a gas station, hotel and bar burned to the ground.

“If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!!” the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook earlier Wednesday.

The sheriff’s department and Cal Fire did not immediately respond to messages.

The 3-week-old fire has grown to over 428 square miles (1,108 square kilometers) across Plumas and Butte counties.

Firefighters had been trying to protect the town of 800 about 280 miles (450 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco by clearing debris from roads and marking hazards.

Pandora Valle, a spokesperson with the U.S. Forest Service, earlier told The San Francisco Chronicle that “firefighters are fighting for the town of Greenville,” but could not provide further details about the damage.

The destruction came amid a red flag warning issued by forecasters warning of hot, bone-dry conditions with winds up to 40 mph (64 kph). That could drive flames through timber, brush and grass, especially along the northern and northeastern sides of the vast Dixie Fire.

“I think we definitely have a few hard days ahead of us,” said Shannon Prather with the U.S. Forest Service.

Firefighters were able to save homes and hold large stretches of the blaze. But flames jumped perimeter lines in a few spots Tuesday, prompting additional evacuation orders for about 15,000 people east of Lake Almanor, fire officials said.

Heat from the flames created a pyrocumulus cloud, a massive column of smoke that rose 30,000 feet (10,000 yards) in the air, said Mike Wink, a state fire operations section chief.

Dawn Garofalo watched the cloud grow from the west side of the lake, where she fled with a dog and two horses, from a friend’s property near Greenville.

“There’s only one way in and one way out. I didn’t want to be stuck up there if the fire came through,” Garofalo said.

From her campsite on the lake bed, she watched the fire glowing on the horizon before dawn. “The flames were huge. They must have been 500 feet high. Scary,” she said.

The fire has threatened thousands of homes and destroyed 67 houses and other buildings since breaking out July 14. It was 35% contained.

About 150 miles (240 kilometers) to the west, the lightning-sparked McFarland Fire threatened remote homes along the Trinity River in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The fire was only 5% contained. It had burned fiercely through nearly 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) of drought-stricken vegetation.

Similar risky weather was expected across Southern California, where heat advisories and warnings were issued for interior valleys, mountains and deserts for much of the week.

Heat waves and historic drought tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight in the American West. Scientists say climate change has made the region much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

More than 20,000 firefighters and support personnel were battling 97 large, active wildfires covering 2,919 square miles (7,560 square kilometers) in 13 U.S. states, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

Montana on Tuesday had 25 active large blazes, followed by Idaho with 21 and Oregon with 13. California had 11.

In Hawaii, firefighters gained control over the 62-square-mile (160-square-kilometer) Mana Road Fire that forced thousands of people to evacuate over the weekend and destroyed at least two homes on the Big Island.

Oregon’s Bootleg Fire, the nation’s largest at 647 square miles (1,676 square kilometers), was 84% contained. Firefighters were busy mopping up hot spots and strengthening fire lines.

“Crews are working tirelessly to ensure we are as prepared as we can be for the extreme fire weather forecast for the next couple days,” a U.S. Forest Service update said.

___

This story has been corrected to show the name of the blaze in Hawaii is the Mana Road Fire, not the Nation Fire.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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