Dixie Fire Doesn’t Pass 1 Million Acres Thanks to Firefighter Effort

by Matthew Memrick

The massive firefighter effort in California has turned the corner on the Dixie Fire, keeping the blaze from overtaking a million acres.

According to Cal Fire, officials reported that 963,276 acres burned with a 94 percent containment rate. The fire started in July and has devoured dry brush and buildings for more than 70 days.

Butte, Plumas, Tehama, Shasta, and Lassen counties have felt the pain from the wildfire, with 1,329 structures destroyed and damaged another 95.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the Dixie Fire is the most expansive of nine big fires currently in the state.

Many factors came into play to control the fire, including timing and luck, according to Yahoo! News.

Dixie Fire Pesky

The Los Angeles Times said a downed tree, blown power fuse, and small fire ring were the massive blaze’s components. From there, the wildfire grew to a horrible size, burning down the town of Greenville and even creating its own lightning.

The fire was on track to overtake the 2020 August Complex fire for largest in California history.

But the weather changed, firefighters were able to take control, and the fire stopped growing.

The fire’s rapid growth led many to change their minds about how fierce extreme heat, climate change, and two years of drought affect California’s landscape. The fire also showed the need to be proactive with more modern firefighting methods.

“The Dixie fire is the final, nail-in-the-coffin piece of evidence that traditional firefighting methods are not up to the challenge of the kind of wildfires we get in the 2020s,” said Chris Field, director of Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Field said the Dixie fire “jumped over everything that we would have considered a traditional defensible fire line.”

He said that past policies of letting brush grow created a massive stockpile of fuel for the fire. Any dropped match or burning ember can quickly start an out-of-control fire. Also, rough terrain where firefighters couldn’t go played a factor.

Brave New Fire World 

Other facts about the Dixie fire were tough to handle. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said that six of the ten most significant fires in the state have come in two years.

While the Complex Fire was 30-plus small fires combined to make one, the Dixie fire was just one small blaze that merged with another to create the disaster.

Many firefighter gains came when the weather improved, and the wind died down. When that happened, flames became more manageable in the eastern efforts to control the fire. The western-based firefighters had rain and slower winds help in their control of the fire.

“Everything basically was the right spot at the right time, for the first time, on the fire,” west zone spokesman Chris Ziegler said.

Other factors included prescribed burns, and already-burned areas also helped tame the Dixie.

Fewer wildfires and more controlled burns may be the key to California’s future. But it’s going to take a whole lot of money.