'Catastrophic, devastating' fire leaves California town in ruins

"We lost Greenville tonight."

For 24 days, the Dixie Fire has blazed across Plumas and Butte counties in California. As the fire continues to burn, the town of Greenville, California, has been brought to ruins.

In a briefing, federal officials said about 75% of the town was destroyed, The Sacramento Bee reported.

As of early Sunday morning, the Dixie Fire encompassed over 446,723 acres and was 21% contained. According to CalFire, the fire is now the second-largest in California history.

An estimated 15,000 people have been evacuated due to the Dixie Fire, according to Bloomberg, and many evacuation orders are still ongoing. At least eight people are unaccounted for during the fire. The blaze has completely destroyed at least 184 structures, including horse stables, displacing more than 250 horses.

Eva Gorman, the owner of a shop called Josefina Fine Knits, told The Sacramento Bee that her store was destroyed by the fire, along with many historical buildings.

The oldest building in town -- a drugstore built in 1860 -- was turned to rubble from the fire. Kevin Goss, owner of the historic Village Drug Co., told the news outlet that "the whole historic downtown area is destroyed."

Stormchaser Brandon Clement was on the scene in Greenville to capture evidence of the destruction on Thursday, Aug. 5. In some of the footage he captured, Clement showed the ruins of what he said used to be a "rather large hotel" in the town that was built in the gold rush era.

"This wall has seen more stuff than people could imagine, and it's gone forever now," Clement said.

A gold rush-era hotel was destroyed in Greenville, California, after the Dixie Fire swept through the town on Thursday, Aug. 5. (Brandon Clement/LSM)

Clement also showed portions of the main highway that goes through the town and the surrounding destruction and smoke.


He compared the devastation to what he imaged the aftermath of a nuclear bomb would look like. Metal street lamps that lined the streets were "wilted like dead flowers."

A metal street lamp was bent under the heat of the Dixie Fire, resembling a wilted flower, on Thursday, Aug. 5, in Greenville, California. (Brandon Clement/LSM)

"We lost Greenville tonight. And there's just not words for how us in government haven't been able to get the job done," U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents the area, said on the House floor while commenting about the drought that has impacted much of the West. "We will take up the fight even harder. And more so, we got to win this; we got to stop this."

As firefighters continue to tackle the blaze, they face a second problem on top of the devastating flames -- the people who refused to evacuate.

"It is imperative that you guys listen to these mandatory evacuations," Jake Cagle, Operations Sections Chief, said. "Like I said, right now we can't protect the structures because we're trying to get people out of here because a lot of people chose to stay in here."

While firefighters focused their energy into helping people who did not evacuate reach safety, homes, businesses and cars fell to the flames.

Cathy Rahmeyer from the Plumas Crisis and Intervention Center said their resources are already stretched thin as the entire region battles wildfires. The center was in the process of purchasing a building in Greenville to be used as a homeless shelter, but the Dixie Fire burnt the building to the ground.

Six of seven of the largest wildfires in California history have occurred during or since 2020. Compared to last year, California has experienced a 151% increase in the amount of acres burned, and fire season, which typically runs into October, is far from over.

As the Dixie Fire continues to burn for its third week, another fire broke out in Nevada and Placer counties in California on Thursday that has already stretched 2,600 acres known as the River Fire. On Saturday morning, the fire was 48% contained.

As the River Fire continued to grow, evacuation orders were underway in the city of Colfax on Thursday, according to Capital Public Radio. As of Saturday morning, evacuation orders have been lifted for all but 800 residents in the region, according to CalFire. The fire has already destroyed at least 88 structures and injured three people. Evacuations have also been occurring across British Columbia, Canada, due to the White Rock Lake Fire.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert, upcoming weather conditions could cause the wildfire situation to worsen. The weather in the area looks to remain dry and hot this week, which will not benefit firefighters working to contain the flames.

Some wind is blowing the smoke away from the scorched region, but it also poses the risk of fanning the flames.

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