Dixie Fire Grows Again in California, Threatening at Least 1500 Structures

The Dixie Fire in California burned 223 square miles, destroyed at least eight buildings and threatened 1,500 more by Friday morning, fire officials said. The fire has become the largest wildfire in the state so far in 2021 as it continues to grow.

Wildfires in the West have become more frequent, more destructive and harder to combat as climate change causes extremely dry conditions and heat waves, the Associated Press reported. Mandatory evacuation orders for Plumas County in the Sierra Nevada were issued Thursday as the Dixie Fire spread eastward.

"This fire is outpacing us at moments," Shannon Prather, the incident commander, said Thursday evening.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection obtained 12 more firefighting aircraft and promptly sent nine to the Dixie Fire, Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced Thursday evening. The addition of the 12 aircraft gives Cal Fire access to more than 60 airplanes and helicopters.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Bootleg Fire Burns in Oregon
Wildfires, such as the Dixie Fire in California, have become more frequent and destructive in the West because of increasingly dry conditions caused by climate change. A sign damaged by the Bootleg Fire lies on the ground on Thursday, July 22, 2021, near Paisley, Ore. Nathan Howard/AP Photo

The nation's largest wildfire raged through southern Oregon on Friday but crews were scaling back some night operations as hard work and weaker winds helped reduce the spread of flames even as wildfires continued to threaten homes in neighboring California.

The Bootleg Fire, which has destroyed an area half the size of Rhode Island, was 40 percent surrounded after burning some 70 homes, mainly cabins, fire officials said.

At least 2,000 homes were ordered evacuated at some point during the fire and an additional 5,000 were threatened.

The upper eastern edge of the blaze continued to move toward Summer Lake, jumping fire lines on Thursday and prompting an evacuation order for some portions of Lake County to be raised to "go now!" fire officials said.

Winds up to 10 mph (16 kph) could drive the flames through timber but not at the pace seen last week when the wind-driven blaze grew exponentially, fire information officer Angela Goldman said.

The fire, which was sparked by lightning, had been expanding by up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day, pushed by strong winds and critically dry weather.

There was good news on the lower portion of the 625-square-mile (1,619-square-kilometer) blaze. Crews had locked in containment lines and on the lower southeastern side, crews were able to gain a substantial foothold, allowing them to cut back to nighttime patrols from what had been a "24-7 run-and-gun" fight, fire information officer Sarah Gracey said.

"For us, that's a pretty big step," she said. "It's not that easy to work in a pitch-black forest in the middle of the night."

On Friday, authorities said they would be keeping an eye on changing wind conditions throughout the day.

"The fire continues to throw challenges at us, and we are going to continue to stay vigilant, work hard, and adapt," Joe Hessel, incident commander for the Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team, said in a statement.

That side of the blaze also had burned into an area blackened by a previous fire, creating gaps in the fuel and reducing the spread of flames through grass, shrub and timber, Gracey said.

In California, the Tamarack Fire south of Lake Tahoe had burned more than 78 square miles (202 square kilometers) of timber and head-high chaparral in national forest land. It erupted July 4 and was one of nearly two dozen blazes sparked by lightning strikes.

The fire in Alpine County has destroyed at least 10 buildings. Fire officials expected active or extreme fire behavior on Friday because of afternoon gusts and temperatures approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).

Blowing embers from flames ignited a new spot fire Thursday afternoon that jumped the highway north of Topaz Lake on the California-Nevada line, prompting a new evacuation order at Topaz Lake Estates and neighboring areas.

The fire was less than a mile from the estates, a community of around 1,200 people in Douglas County, Nevada.

"Firefighters on the ground and aircraft continue to battle the growing spot under exceptionally difficult weather and fuel condition," the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest said in an update.

It estimated the new blaze already had burned nearly 4 square miles (10 square kilometers).

Bootleg Fire Destroys Oregon Homes
The Bootleg Fire in Oregon has destroyed an area half the size of Rhode Island, fire officials said. Here, Sayyid Bey sifts through the remains of his home Thursday, July 22, 2021, after it was destroyed by the Bootleg Fire near Bly, Ore. Nathan Howard/AP Photo