As the devastating Dixie Fire rips through California, residents are facing more than just the loss of their homes and businesses – a valuable piece of of the region’s heritage is also being destroyed.
Two Gold Rush-era towns have been levelled already: Greenville and Rush Bar, both in Plumas County, have suffered huge losses as historic buildings were claimed by the wildfire.
The ghost town of Rich Bar, which was once a booming Gold Rush centre, now lies covered in ash, reported the SFChronicle. Kellogg House, built in 1852 and one of the region’s oldest homes, was also destroyed in the fire there.
“Our heritage has gone up in flames,” Paul Russell, assistant director of the Plumas County Museum in Quincy told SFChronicle. “Rich Bar was part of the start of Plumas County and the start of bringing people up here. This is a real historical loss.”
Further north, the mountain town of Greenville also has roots in the Gold Rush. Its historic main street was ravaged by the fire and largely reduced to rubble by Wednesday.
Greenville has a population of about 800 people, who were ordered to evacuate on Monday and again on Wednesday this week.
“If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!!” the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook page on Wednesday.
Greenville was hit by strong winds and unusually low humidity levels which stoked the already-ferocious blaze and hampered firefighters efforts to contain it, reports SFGate.
“Single digit humidity humidity … that’s really not good with these winds … that’s bad,” said Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory. “This is looking crazy,” he added.
The Dixie Fire, the largest wildfire burning in California, has been tearing through the region for three weeks, burning more than 278,000 acres and creating devastation in the communities it has hit.
The fire’s tremendous heat created a pyrocumulus cloud, a column of smoke that rose 30,000 feet, said a state fire operations section chief.
Local Dawn Garofalo watched the cloud grow from the west side of Lake Almanor, where she had taken sanctuary.
“There’s only one way in and one way out. I didn’t want to be stuck up there if the fire came through,” Ms Garofalo told SFGate.
From her campsite, she watched the fire light up the horizon. “The flames were huge. They must have been 500 feet high. Scary,” she said.