On Thursday, the Dixie Fire ripped through the historic mining town of Greenville, Calif., destroying multiple structures in the downtown area.
The fire ballooned to 322,502 acres overnight at 35% containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service, making it the largest active fire in California and the sixth-largest in the state’s history.
“Yesterday we saw extreme fire growth,” said Mitch Matlow, a representative with the multiagency team managing the fire. “The fire was averaging about a half-mile an hour.”
The blaze leveled much of downtown Greenville and scorched surrounding homes, SFGate reported.
Wildlife photographer Stuart Palley wrote on social media that the fire burned so hot it melted street lamp posts and left little in the downtown area intact.
“All I see standing on the main street is a Dollar General,” he said. “My heart is broken for this beautiful little town.”
U.S. Rep Doug LaMalfa, a Republican representing California’s 1st District which includes the area, addressed the damage in a Facebook video.
“We lost Greenville tonight,” he said. “There’s just no words.”
The Plumas County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation order for the Greenville area Wednesday afternoon, urging residents to make their way south.
“If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you must leave now!” the sheriff’s office wrote.
On Thursday, residents of Chester, Lake Almanor Peninsula, and Hamilton Branch were also ordered to evacuate.
A total of 4,785 firefighters have been deployed to fight the Dixie Fire, which started on July 13 and is expected to be out by next week.
On Thursday, firefighters warned of extreme fire behaviour, with a Red Flag Warning in effect until 8 p.m., due to hot, dry temperatures, low relative humidity, and wind gusts of up to 30 mph to 35 mph.