MILFORD, Lassen County (CBS SF) -- Firefighters battled the ever-expanding Dixie Fire Friday along the blaze's eastern edge as flames continued to burn through bone-dry forest and grasslands, advancing to within a half mile of the massive burn scar left over from the Sugar Fire that was a part of July's Beckwourth Complex blaze.
Since the fire started on July 14th above the Cresta Dam in the Feather River Canyon, the blaze has ripped through portions of five counties. The burn zone stretched over 881,086 acres and was 55 percent contained by Friday evening. More than 1,283 structures, including hundreds of homes, have been destroyed.
The communities of Greenville and Canyondam near Lake Almanor were ravaged by flames. On Friday, firefighters were engaged with the sprawling fire in the forests of Lassen Volcanic National Park on the northern edge and along southeastern edge as flames advanced toward Lake Davis, Dixie Valley and Highway 395.
While the gusty Red Flag Warning wind conditions have abated, the fire continued to rapidly advance Friday.
"This fire moves even when there is no wind," said Dixie Fire East Ops Chief Jeff Surber. "It moves fairly quickly even when there is no wind on it because it's so dry."
Joining the 3,860 firefighters on the fire lines Friday were 250 Army personnel specially trained to fight wildfires at Fort Lewis, Washington.
On Thursday, Surber said, an intense air operation targeted flames on Turner Ridge as the fire began advancing the edge of Lake Davis.
"Tons of aircraft, tons of hard work went in there with hand crews trying to hold this," Surber said of the Turner Ridge operation. "I've been told they feel better about their chances of keeping it in check. We'll hope for the best with the shifting winds."
Even the lighter winds will play a role Friday along the southeastern edge as teams build dozer lines to deflect the fire from its path into the Dixie Valley.
"The winds will be shifty today, not strong," Surber said. "They will be shifting around from different directions that can lead to a spot fire when a tree torches out inside our control lines. It will throw embers across the line and start fires."
Along the Highway 395 corridor, firefighters continued to battle the fire in the difficult terrain and squirrelly winds of the escarpment.
"It made a pretty good run a few days ago, it burned about 4 miles in a couple hours," said West Zone Ops Chief Tony Brownell of the fire on the escarpment. "It has come over the escarpment and is moving toward some structures...The fire will make runs at 2-3 p.m. as the winds come off the escarpment."
Dozer lines and fire crews were being used to protect the homes and buildings.
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