Dixie Fire Now Second-Largest Wildfire in California History, Close to 500,000 Acres

by Matthew Memrick

The Dixie Fire hit a dubious mark on Sunday, becoming the second-largest California wildfire in the state’s history with close to 500,000 burned acres.

NBC News reported that thousands need to leave the area, and more than 10,000 buildings could go up in smoke in the coming days. Mercury News stated that more than 400 homes and buildings have burned during the California wildfire with only a 21 percent containment rate.

“It’s a monster,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Rick Carhart said to Mercury News. “And it’s gigantic.”

Last week, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said the town of Greenville succumbed to the wildfire. The group reported that less than a quarter of the blaze is in containment lines.

What and when was the most devastating California wildfire? According to Cal Fire, the August Complex fire took out more than a million acres over seven counties in 2020. Officials estimate that its cost was more than $319 million.

Thankfully, the Dixie Fire has not caused any deaths, but Cal Fire records attribute injuries to three firefighters and more than 400 destroyed buildings. Plumas County officials said on Sunday that four people are missing.

In that county alone, 13,000 buildings and about 7,000 people are in harm’s way of the California wildfire. 

Officials Detail Fight Against California Wildfire 

On Sunday, U.S. Forest Service officials reported smoke was leaving in one part of the Dixie Fire area. Officials explained that would help in their firefighting efforts by air with aircraft and helicopters.

The fire has slowed by an area already burned, officials said. The 2007 Moonlight Fire’s effect on the site has reduced burning fuel for the current fire. The month-long Moonlight Fire caused $31 million in damages.

But U.S. Forest Service section chief Jake Cagle said hot, windy conditions could incite the California wildfire as the firefight progresses.

“We’re definitely not out of the woods yet,” he said.

On Saturday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom visited Greenville and compared it to Paradise, a 2018 Camp Fire victim. He said, in less than two hours, much of Greenville burned up. 

“We recognize we’ve got to do more in active forest management and vegetation management,” Newsom said per NBC News. “At the end of the day, though, we also have to acknowledge this: the dries are getting a lot drier, and the heat and hot weather is a lot hotter than it’s ever been.”

“We need to acknowledge, just straight up, these are climate-induced wildfires,” he added about the California wildfire.

Officials say an early look into the fire beginnings may come from a tree that fell on a power cable owned by Pacific Gas & Company (PG&E). That cause is similar to the California wildfire dubbed Camp Fire in 2018 that caused the deaths of 86 people.