Dixie Fire Levels California Town, Threatens More

Image: Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

The Dixie fire, the largest wildfire currently raging across the West, has leveled another entire town in California. Greenville, California, a town of about 1,000 residents, was reduced to rubble last Thursday following a rapid evacuation.

The fire destroyed over 100 homes and has left residents adrift as they wonder what’s next for their community. Firefighters are warning that wildfire behavior is becoming increasingly erratic and that many more towns could be at risk as the fires continue to rage.

For Californians, after witnessing the entire town of Paradise succumb to wildfire in 2018, this latest fire is reigniting collective trauma.

Why This Matters: Drought and rising temperatures in the West have created a vicious cycle of destruction that has become the new normal. These conditions have empowered wildfires, making them burn stronger, move faster, and even create their own weather. The nation’s firefighting infrastructure isn’t up to the task, and firefighters say that they’re in “uncharted territory.” Experts say that these conditions will continue to worsen unless the world can limit global temperature rise. But even if we succeed, the damage may not heal. Climate adaptation and innovative fire control techniques may be the West’s only hope.

Gone with the Wind: Locals and officials recount the horrors of the destruction of Greenville. “You are in imminent danger, and you MUST leave now!” the Plumas County Sheriff’s office posted on Facebook. Firefighters moved to evacuate those who had refused to do so early and were seemingly intent on making a last stand. “We have firefighters that are getting guns pulled out on them because people don’t want to evacuate,” said Jake Cagle, an incident management operations section chief.

Lifelong residents are now mourning the loss of their town and history. Some of the buildings that were destroyed had stood for a overcentury in the Gold-rush era town. “For me, the part that hurts more than losing my things is losing my beautiful green mountains, the character, the old buildings, the post office, the old hardware store,” said Marilyn Crouch, whose home was destroyed by the fire. “It’s just flattened.”

Nearby, other towns were threatened by some of the state’s other raging fires. A two-hour drive south of Greenville, 6,000 people were ordered to evacuate in Placer and Nevada counties to avoid the River Fire. Firefighters were unable to contain the fire as it raged toward the region. They say these fires are like nothing they’ve seen before. “It’s wreaking havoc. The winds are kind of changing direction on us every few hours,” said Captain Sergio Arellano, a fire spokesperson. Now, they’re left coping with new challenges, challenges that won’t be leaving the West anytime soon.

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