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Dixie Fire Update: Crews Face More Weather Woes from Forecast Heat, Thunderstorms

PLUMAS COUNTY (CBS SF/AP) -- More hot temperatures, erratic winds and possible thunderstorms were forecast in the area of the Dixie Fire Friday, raising concerns the weather could fuel another burst of growth for the wildfire.

The Cal Fire Friday morning update estimated the fire's size at 517,945 acres. It is currently 31% contained. Fire is burning across four counties -- Butte, Lassen, Plumas, and Tehama -- and has consumed trees in the Plumas National Forest, Lassen National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

The fire has ravaged more than 800 square miles (well over 2,000 square kilometers) and continues to threaten more than a dozen rural and forest communities. A red flag warning of critical fire weather was set to begin Friday afternoon.

Fire activity remained moderate Thursday, with sporadic isolated thunderstorms within the fire zone that did not result in any new ignitions.

Erratic outflow winds of 20-30 mph from thunderstorm cells were expected to lead to additional variable fire behavior, depending on location. Most of the thunderstorm activity was expected over the Lassen area.

"As far as today, we're going to see a little more coverage. We're going to see a little more activity, so be prepared for that," Cal Fire meteorologist Joe Groswald told firefighters Friday. "These outflow winds are extending for tens of miles, so even if it's not thundering where you are, be aware that you could still be impacted."

While Groswald said the weather would remain unstable Friday, there was more moisture in the air, meaning that some precipitation could possibly accompany the thunderstorms. The thunderstorms were expected to begin at around noon, continuing as late as 9 p.m.

On Thursday, residents were trying to cope with the magnitude of the losses.

"Everything that I own is now ashes or twisted metal. That's just all it is," said Greenville resident Ken Donnell, who escaped with just the clothes on his back.

Donnell said he was heart-broken but "by God, I'm gonna smile. Because you know, it just makes things a little bit better and a little bit better right now is a lot."

Sam Prentice, a firefighter for the USDA Forest Service battled the flames in Greenville on Aug. 5, when the town was leveled. He was not optimistic on Greenville's ability to rebuild.

"Essentially it starts to become an archeology site — kind of a testament to the fire era that we're in right now," said Prentice. "It's daunting."

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

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