Updated Aug 19, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Monster California wildfires force fresh evacuations and raze more homes

Plumes of wildfire smoke rise as trees burn during the Dixie Fire on August 18, 2021 near Susanville, California.
Plumes of wildfire smoke rise as trees burn during the Dixie Fire near Susanville, California, on Wednesday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Two massive wildfires were threatening Northern California communities as a smaller blaze tore through a mobile home park amid gusty conditions late Wednesday, with much of the region under red flag warnings.

The latest: Fresh mandatory evacuation orders were issued for Susanville as the historic Dixie Fire closed in on the Lassen County town. Meanwhile, the monster Calder Fire continued to raze structures in the Sierra Nevada — including a church and a school, per the Los Angeles Times.

  • The blaze also triggered new mandatory evacuation orders for communities in El Dorado County after showing "unprecedented" behavior.
  • In Lake County, a grass fire propelled by winds of up to 30 mph razed dozens of mobile homes as it tore through the community, injuring one person before firefighters managed to curb its spread, AP reports.

By the numbers: 104 large fires were burning across the U.S. Wednesday, with 11 in California.

  • The Dixie Fire, the second-largest wildfire on record in California, grew to 662,647 acres by Wednesday night and was 35% contained after burning for more than a month. It has destroyed 1,217 structures.
  • The uncontained Caldor Fire that's injured at least two people this week that's razed dozens of homes in and around Grizzly Flats and earlier Greenville had swelled to 62,586 acres as it continued to threaten communities overnight.

The big picture: California Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for El Dorado County Tuesday due to the Caldor blaze — which ignited Sunday about 60 miles east of Sacramento.

  • Smoke from this wildfire, along with the Dixie Fire and other blazes has triggered air quality advisories in portions of Central California.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California's largest power company, shut off power to parts of 18 Northern California counties Tuesday night to reduce the risk of ignition from its equipment. The action affects some 51,000 customers.

Of note: Human-caused climate change has contributed to a prolonged, severe drought that has gripped California and other Western states and exacerbated wildfire activity.

  • The federal government formally declared a water shortage at Lake Mead on Monday for the first time since the nation's largest reservoir by volume was created in the 1930s, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

Go deeper: In photos: Where wildfires are blazing around the world

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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