Town burnt to ashes in raging wildfire in northern California

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Updated 45 minutes ago

GREENVILLE, Calif. (AP) – Eva Gorman says the small California mountain town of Greenville was a place of community and strong character, the kind of place where neighbors volunteered to move furniture, baskets of flowers colorful brightened up the main street, and writers, musicians, mechanics and chicken farmers mingled.

Now it’s ashes.

As hot, dry, and gusty weather hit California, the state’s largest current wildfire raged through the community of approximately 1,000 people in Sierra Nevada during the rush. gold, incinerating much of the city center which included wooden buildings over a century old.

The winds were expected to calm down and change direction before the weekend, but this good news came too late for Gorman.

“It’s just completely devastating. We lost our house, my business, our whole downtown is gone, ”said Gorman, who heeded evacuation warnings and left town with her husband a week and a half ago on the approach. of the Dixie fire.

She managed to snap a few photos on the wall, her favorite jewelry, and some important documents, but couldn’t help but think about the family treasures left behind.

“My grandmother’s dining chairs, my great aunt’s bed from Italy. There is a photo that I always visualize in my mind of my son when he was 2 years old. He’s 37 now, ”she said. “At first you think, ‘It’s okay, I’ve got the negatives.’ And then you realize, ‘Oh. No, I don’t.

Authorities had yet to estimate how many buildings were destroyed, but Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns estimated Thursday that “well over” 100 homes had burned down in and near the city.

“My heart is broken over what happened there,” said Johns, a longtime Greenville resident.

About a two-hour drive south, officials said around 100 homes and other buildings burned in the river fire that broke out quickly on Wednesday near Colfax, a town of about 2 000 inhabitants. There was no lockdown and about 6,000 people were ordered to evacuate in Placer and Nevada counties, state fire officials said.

The three-week-old Dixie Fire was one of 100 large active fires burning in 14 states, most in the West, where historic drought left the land parched and ready to be kindled.

The Dixie Fire had consumed approximately 565 square miles (1,464 square kilometers), an area larger than the size of Los Angeles. The cause was under investigation, but Pacific Gas & Electric said it may have been triggered when a tree fell on one of the utility’s power lines.

The blaze exploded Wednesday and Thursday through wood, grass and brush so dry that a fire official described it as “essentially close to combustion”. Dozens of houses had already burned down before the flames descended again.

No deaths or injuries were reported, but the blaze continued to threaten more than 10,000 homes.

Weather and towering clouds of smoke produced by the blaze’s intense and erratic winds on Thursday forced firefighters to struggle to put firefighters in changing hotspots.

“It’s wreaking havoc. The winds sort of change direction on us every few hours, ”said Captain Sergio Arellano, a spokesperson for the fire department.

“We are seeing some really frightening fire behavior,” said Chris Carlton, supervisor of the Plumas National Forest. “We are truly in uncharted territory. “

Heat waves and the historic drought associated with climate change have made wildfires more difficult to fight in the American West. Scientists say climate change has made the region much hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather conditions more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.

The blaze hit Greenville from two angles and firefighters were already in town trying to save it, but first had to risk their lives to save people who had refused to evacuate by loading people into cars to get them out, firefighters said.

“We have firefighters getting shot at them because people don’t want to evacuate,” said Jake Cagle, head of the incident management operations section.

The flames also reached the town of Chester, northwest of Greenville, but crews managed to protect homes and businesses there, with only minor damage to one or two structures, officials said.

The blaze was not far from the town of Paradise, which was largely destroyed in a 2018 wildfire started by PG&E equipment that killed 85 people, making it the deadliest in the country for at least a century.

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Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press editors Janie Har and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco contributed to this report.


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