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Dixie Fire: Four Firefighters Injured; 39 Percent Of Plumas County Evacuated; 'We Didn't Expect A Monster Like This'

QUNICY (CBS SF) -- The numbers for the Dixie Fire, raging through four Northern California counties, are simply staggering: 465 miles of fire lines; hundreds of homes destroyed; 39 percent of Plumas County evacuated; 463,477 acres burned; towns of Greenville, Canyondam wiped out.

On Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom walked through the rubble of downtown Greenville.

"Our hearts ache for this town," he posted on Twitter. "Greenville — though this moment may seem insurmountable, we'll be there to help you rebuild."

Along the fire lines -- which stretched the equivalent of traveling from Chico to Los Angeles -- four firefighters suffered injuries over the weekend.

"All four were transported to local hospitals, three of which have been released and one is still in the hospital," said Cal Fire's Chris Waters. "Firefighters were injured while working a piece of line on the northern side of the fire and were stuck by a limb that had fallen from a tree."

Elsewhere, there have been no other injuries reported among fire crews or local residents. Four residents of the fire-ravaged town of Greenville do remain listed as missing.

On Sunday, firefighters were bracing for another challenging day as a dry cold front was forecast to whip up west winds, fueling the northwest advance of the blaze toward Susanville.

"Expect those winds to come through, they'll be strongest above 6,000 feet," said Cal Fire meteorologist Ryan Walbrun.

Officials also said that National Guard troops have set up roadblocks to prevent the possibility of looting of evacuated homes. Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns said two suspects have been detained for illegally being in evacuated areas.

At the numerous evacuation centers Sunday, the enormous toll on those forced to flee their homes was evident.

After four years of homelessness, Kesia Studebaker thought she finally landed on her feet when she found a job cooking in a diner and moved into a house in Greenville.

She had been renting for three months and hoped the stability would help her win back custody of her 14-year-old daughter.

But in just one night, the raging wildfire tore through the mountain town and "took it all away," she said.

Fueled by strong winds and bone-dry vegetation, the fire has grown to become the largest single wildfire in state history. Residents of the scenic forestlands of Northern California are facing a weekend of fear as it threatens to reduce thousands of homes to ashes.

"We knew we didn't get enough rainfall and fires could happen, but we didn't expect a monster like this," Studebaker said Saturday.

Dale Huber walked into the fire zone to check on his brother's home, which was reduced to rubble.

"It used to be a bunch of cool stuff, and now it's just trash," Huber said. "You can't fix it. We can tear it out and start over again or run away. I think he's decided he wants to rebuild here."

The fire grew by 110 square miles between Thursday night and Friday morning. Containment fell from 35 percent to 21 percent by Sunday morning because of the fire's growth.

To the north, the wall of flames has advanced into the Lassen Volcanic National Park, forcing rangers to empty the popular summer vacation destination and shutter its gates.

West Zone Operations Chief Mike Wink said at least 38 structures were damaged or destroyed in Warner Valley near the national forest.

Wink also said crews have not been able to determine the condition of the historic Mt. Harkness fire lookout inside the park after flames rolled through that area.

To the east, the "Moonlight Finger" -- fueled by spot fires -- continued to rip through the rugged region's tinder-dry timber and brush. Fire lines were being reenforced around Dyer Mountain and its vital public safety communication towers on the east side of Lake Almanor.

The fire -- which started on July 13 in Feather River Canyon north of Sacramento -- has left in its wake a path of devastation including turning Greenville and Canyondam into smoldering piles of rubble.

"I've been fighting fire for 25 years and this is the most extreme fire behavior I've ever been a part of," said Chico firefighter Mike Watner.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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