Dixie Fire: Families Return to Gold Rush-Era Town to Find It Completely Destroyed

by Megan Molseed

When area officials lifted the mandatory evacuation orders Friday for those in the path of the Dixie Fire, the residents of one historic California town had no idea what to expect. Most knew there would be devastation, but few expected the horrific sight as they returned to their homes; only to discover that home was no more after the Dixie Fire tore through the area in early August.

About 125 miles northwest of Nevada sits the town of Greenville, California. A small west-coast town of just about a thousand residents, Greenville holds within it quite a bit of history.

All that has been threatened, however, as the flames of the California Dixie Fire almost entirely destroyed the Gold-Rush area town. For the lucky few whose homes were spared, returning home is hardly an option. The small California town is still without clean running water or phone or internet availability.

Tests of the water in the area have revealed it currently contains the chemical benzene. Benzene is a known cancer-causing chemical. The water is not safe to drink, Greenville residents have been told. Even boiling the water won’t make it safe.

Additionally, the Dixie Fire wiped out almost every business so services such as drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants are largely unavailable.

The Dixie Fire Devestates Greenville

The catastrophic fire reached the small California town on August 4. The blaze ripped through Greenville, destroying homes, charring vehicles where they sat, and devastating the area.

One Greenville resident likened the destruction to a bomb going off in the tiny mountain town.

Another resident, Jose Garcia recounted to the New York Times that he and his father, Juvenal Garcia attempted to stay back as the fire approached; hoping to create firebreaks to prevent some destruction.

However, the fire was too much, forcing Garcia to seek safety as it closed in.

“I tried to defend it to the last second,” he said. “The fire just pushed me out.”

Nearly Two Months of Devestation

The Dixie Fire originated in the Feather River Canyon on July 13. According to reports, the Utility company, PG&E has stated that the company’s equipment is likely to blame for the blaze. A malfunction with one of their utility poles is likely to have sparked the Dixie Fire, notes the company.

So far, the Dixie Fire has burned over 213,000 acres; destroying over 900 homes and businesses in its wake. One death has been reported since the start of the devastating blaze. A first responder battling the catastrophic fire lost their life.