The Dixie fire, which started in the Sierra Nevada, has been burning for nearly a month
Firefighting planes can no longer fly over the massive Dixie Fire in California as the smoke plume has risen as high as 22,000 feet.
Burning in Northern California, the fire has decimated the town of Greenville, leaving tens of thousands of residents without a home.
The fire’s speed has stunned even the most seasoned fire crews, eating up acres of land every second on some days.
“We’re seeing truly frightening fire behavior,” Chris Carlton, Plumas National forest supervisor, said at a news conference.
“We have a lot of veteran firefighters who have served for 20, 30 years and have never seen behavior like this, especially day after day.”
The Dixie Fire’s rapid pace has outstripped emergency alert systems and residents are turning to social media for the most up-to-date news. Local community members have been posting updates on Twitter using the hashtag #DixieFire.
The climate crisis is driving hotter temperatures and an extreme drought in California which is making fire seasons longer, more severe and unpredictable.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Trinity, Shasta, and Tehama counties, meaning the state can readily give resources to help fight the fires and assist residents.
Meanwhile, public authorities are investigating whether Pacific Gas & Electric’s power lines had any role in starting the Dixie fire.
High temperatures and dry air are expected to continue on the west coast, National Fire News (NFN) reports. Years of forest mismanagement have left California’s forests full of dried-out vegetation and dead trees which are primed to burn in the extreme heat.
The Dixie Fire is one of 11 large wildfires burning in California, according to NFN. Some 12,000 people in eight counties are under evacuation orders.
“I had no choice, I had to leave,” Erik Stifler, an evacuee of Lake Almanor West, in northeastern California, told CBS News.
Fires aren’t just affecting local residents. Smoke has spread over 1,000 miles, putting Denver, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah, on the top 10 list of poor air quality and pollution in the world.
The fire has also destroyed 873 businesses and homes and left three firefighters injured. So far no deaths have been reported but five people are missing from Plumas county.
The Dixie Fire is just 25 per cent contained, according to Cal Fire. Crews are working to try to prevent the fire from spreading farther east into California and Nevada.
There are 108 fires burning in 15 states across the US on nearly 2.5million acres of land. There have been nearly 40,000 fires in 2021 so far.