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Massive Dixie Fire Tops 800,000 Acres; New Evacuations Ordered; Fire Train Helping Crews

PLUMAS COUNTY (CBS SF) -- The second-largest wildfire in California history, the Dixie Fire burned another 36,000 acres over the past 24 hours and prompted new evacuations in Plumas County Tuesday.

The Plumas County Sheriff's Office issued a mandatory evacuation order for BecKwourth Genessee Road east through Dixie Valley Road to the Plumas County line and north to the Plumas County line. This includes Dixie Valley and Frenchman Lake. [PLU 34, PLU 37, PLU 43-A and 43-B]

The sheriff's office said people should take their pets and necessary items, papers, including medications and evacuate immediately. Evacuees should check-in at local shelters, even if not planning to stay. A shelter for the newest evacuees was at Holy Family Catholic Church at 108 Taylor Ave in Portola.


As of Tuesday morning, the Dixie Fire had burned 807,396 acres, or nearly 1,300 square miles since the fire began on July 14 above the Cresta Dam in the Feather River Canyon area of the Sierra-Cascades region. Containment remained at 48%.

People have been evacuated from their homes in five counties: Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta, and Tehama. The wildfire has destroyed more than 1,200 structures, including nearly 700 homes.

Fire officials said crews were working amid a Red Flag Warning for the East Zone fire area which was forecasted to continue through Tuesday evening. Strong southwest winds have increased fire activity in the Mount Ingalls and Red Clover Creek areas, and contingency dozer lines were being constructed in the Squaw Queen Creek area to help drive the fire from the North Lake Davis area up into the Walker Fire scar, where fuel loads are lighter.

Tactical patrols and mop-up operations were continuing around homes in the Genesee Valley and into Taylorsville, while other contingency lines were being added between the fire, Greenhorn, Portola, and the communities along Highway 70 and all the way around North Lake Davis.

Dixie Fire fire train
Firefighters spray water from Union Pacific Railroad's fire train while battling the Dixie Fire in Plumas National Forest, Calif., on Friday, July 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

In the Dixie Fire West Zone, crews were fighting the fire on several fronts with a Red Flag Warning also in effect because of the same gusty southwest winds and relative humidity in the single digits. Firefighters worked the northern edge of the fire in Lassen Volcanic National Park, reducing fuels and improving containment lines.

Wink said the greatest area of fire growth potential was along the northern edge of the Dixie Fire West Zone, as flames have bypassed Highway 44 in the area and forced a temporary road closure Monday evening just east of Old Station.

Fire crews were also using the Union Pacific Fire Train, a train that carries 50,000 gallons of water as well as retardant to support crews and protect critical infrastructure.

California Incident Management Team operations chief Mike Wink said Tuesday the fire train is proving to be an invaluable asset.

"It's an unusual resource we have available to us. We're very fortunate," said Wink. It's in the right place, the rail is really close to the highway, they have the capability, you know, we call that a force multiplier. We have engines, crews, dozers - we don't always have a train. So that's working, we have good communication with them, that's working well.

Wink said PG&E crews have also been spraying power line poles and fiber optic lines with fire retardant along the Highway 44 corridor.

The Dixie Fire is the second-largest wildfire and the largest single fire in California history. The wildfire is second in size only to the August Complex Fire of August 2020, a series of lightning-caused fires in Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, Tehama, Glenn, Lake, and Colusa counties that were fought together as one fire.

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