The massive wildfire ravaging northern California became the third largest in recent California history on Friday, and its expansion could continue.
The prolonged drought, which scientists believe is linked to climate change, has made the western United States particularly vulnerable to these very destructive fires.
The Dixie Fire, which devastated the small town of Greenville this week, has devoured more than 170,000 hectares since it broke out in mid-July.
“People who have lost their homes and businesses … Their lives will never be the same,” Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns, who is helping to coordinate efforts against it, said at a press conference. the fire and has lived in Greenville “forever”.
“My heart is broken by what happened” in this town of 800 inhabitants, he said. “All I can tell you is I’m sorry.”
Scorched, Greenville showed nothing but ruins on Friday. All the wooden structures were reduced to ashes and some stone buildings to rubble.
If no one has been injured by the blaze yet, it is vital that locals in their path heed evacuation advisories, said Todd Johns.
“This fire is not over. If that plume of smoke is heading your way even a little, you need to prepare. Wherever the wind blows, this is where (the fire) will go. ”
More than 5,000 firefighters battled the huge blaze, whose huge billows of smoke are visible from space.
Authorities said on Friday they expected gusts of wind to fuel the blaze.
These squalls, combined with difficult terrain and abundant, very dry vegetation, made the efforts of the fire fighters even more difficult.
The Dixie Fire expanded overnight to cover 174,000 hectares, an area larger than that of the Bootleg Fire, devastating the state of Oregon further north. .
Its flames have grown to such an extent that they generate their own climate.
Forest fires are common in California, but due to climate change they are increasingly devastating.
At the end of July, fires had already destroyed two and a half times more vegetation than during the same period in 2020, yet the worst year in California history in terms of fires.
The Dixie Fire is painfully reminiscent of the Paradise Fire of 2018, California’s deadliest fire in recent years.
Faulty power lines, which ran through the northern town of Paradise, had caused the blaze, killing 86 people.
Energy supplier Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), California’s largest energy company, has pleaded guilty.
PG&E equipment is again in question for the Dixie Fire, after a tree fell on a power cable the day the fire started.
The company announced at the end of July that it would bury its 16,000 km of electric cables to prevent its equipment from causing new devastating fires.
Greenville itself is used to fires. It had already been almost wiped out in 1881, and several blazes threatened its inhabitants over the past century and a half.
According to a latest report published Sunday, August 8, the blaze had reduced to ashes a little more than 187,000 hectares since its departure on July 13 in the north of this state. It was limited to only 21%. California Governor Gavin Newsom walked through the ruins of Greenville, the town of which was completely ravaged by flames. “The droughts are much more severe, it is hotter than ever … We must openly admit that these fires are caused by the climate,” he said.
Eight of the ten biggest fires ever in California have burned since 2017 . And even six since 2020, when the largest of them all, August Complex , with 417,000 hectares destroyed.
The milder weather this weekend gave a little respite to the 5,000 firefighters fighting the blaze night and day . Progressing on extremely steep trails, three of them were injured in operation. But sweltering temperatures above 38 degrees Celsius are expected again midweek and firefighters estimate the blaze will not be extinguished for about ten days.