Watch CBS News

Dixie Fire Update: Flames Advancing Toward Janesville; Search For Missing Greenville Residents; Blaze Grows To Near 500,000 Acres

JANESVILLE (CBS SF) -- Firefighters prepared to battle the massive Dixie Fire Monday, building defensive lines in the blaze's path as it advanced toward the Lassen County town of Janesville and grew to nearly 500,000 acres.

East Zone operations chief Jake Cagle said dozer lines were being cut and additional crews dispatched in the path of the flames southwest of Janesville.

The 'Moonlight Finger' of the fire's eastern edge was pushed along by strong winds on Sunday afternoon and evening.

"We're still quite a ways from Janesville," Cagle said. "We do expect the weather to be a little bit of repeat of today (Sunday's gusty condition on Monday)... As you guys have seen in this extreme fire behavior, all we do is get out in front of this fire and do what we can do. There are a lot of dozer line left over from the Sheep Fire (burned nearly 30,000 in 2020). These will help us...We are really focused on this effort to keep it out of Janesville."


The flames were also approaching the burn zone of the 2019 Walker fire, which consumed 54,612 acres near Genesee Valley in the Plumas National Forest approximately 11 miles east of the community of Taylorsville.

On Sunday, the Lassen County sheriff issued evacuation warnings for the west side of Janesville from Bass Hill to Janesville Grade.

Fire lines were also being re-enforced around Dyer Mountain and its vital public safety communication towers on the east side of Lake Almanor.

Meanwhile, the Plumas County Sheriff's Office said it was still searching for Lillian and Joseph Basham and Blanca and Michael Auban, all of the fire-ravage community of Greenville.

Over the weekend, 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 more than 465 miles, the equivalent of traveling from Chico to Los Angeles -- four firefighters suffered injuries.

"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."

There were more than 5,000 firefighters on the lines. Deputy Incident Commander Chris Waters said officials were only confident that about 20% of the line is secure.

"Every bit of that line needs to be constructed, staffed, mopped up and actually put to bed before we can call this fire fully contained," Waters said

Elsewhere, there have been no other injuries reported among fire crews or local residents.

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."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.