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Battalion Chief Sergio Mora looks on as the Dixie fire burns through downtown Greenville, Calif. on Aug. 4, 2021. Photo: Josh EdelsonAFP via Getty Images

The small Sierra town of Greenville, California, was heavily damaged on Wednesday night into early Thursday as the Dixie Fire surged northward amid high winds, extremely dry air and hot temperatures.

The latest: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, continued to threaten communities in Plumas County into Thursday night, as more mandatory evacuation orders were issued in the region.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • The Plumas County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post to residents of the towns of Chester, Lake Almanor Peninsula and Hamilton Branch on Thursday afternoon: "If you are still in the area, you are in danger and you MUST leave now!!
  • Evacuation orders were also issued for the Plumas County town of Taylorsville, and also for the towns of Westwood and Susanville in the nearby Lassen County on Thursday night.

The big picture: The fire, the sixth-largest wildfire in state history, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through historic Greenville and surrounding areas.

  • Authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders on Wednesday evening for Greenville, about 240 miles northeast of San Francisco, and other communities as the blaze moved in.
  • According to AP, the blaze gutted downtown buildings dating back a century or more. "We did everything we could," fire spokesperson Mitch Matlow told the news service. "Sometimes it’s just not enough.”

Threat level: An upper level weather disturbance moving in from the west has made the fire situation even more perilous for firefighters and residents near the blazes, as towering thunderstorms form over and downwind of the fires.

  • In addition, wind shifts are suddenly fanning the flames for more than 20 miles in new directions.
  • Red Flag fire weather warnings were issued through Thursday evening.
  • Such conditions are likely to lead to additional extreme wildfire behavior, including rapid and erratic movement of the blaze and formation of towering pyrocumulus clouds above the fire.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

By the numbers: In addition to the Dixie Fire, multiple other wildfires are burning in northern California as well. As of Thursday afternoon eastern time, the River Fire had burned 16,733 acres and was 0% contained.

  • The Dixie Fire is now the 6th-largest blaze in California history by acres burned, at more than 320,000 acres so far. That's up at least 24,000 acres in size compared to Wednesday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
  • Illustrating the dangerous conditions in place, the River Fire exploded from a spark on Wednesday to well over 2,000 acres by dusk and growing quickly, threatening several small towns, and billowing smoke more than 30,000 feet into the sky.
  • On Thursday morning it became clear that the River Fire destroyed several homes in the town of Colfax, Calif.

Context: The extremely dry conditions in northern California are the result of a severe drought, which is the worst the West has seen so far this century.

  • Northern California as well as the neighboring states of Oregon and Washington have also experienced repetitive heat waves this summer that have dried out the forests even more, and shrunk lakes and reservoirs to record low levels.
  • Human-caused climate change is driving an increase in the likelihood and severity of heatwaves and droughts, and is behind a trend toward larger wildfires in much of the West in recent years, studies show.
  • Last year was California's worst wildfire season on record. So far, this season is ahead of last year's pace, and the climatological peak of the season doesn't begin for several more weeks.

Rebecca Falconer and Jacob Knutson contributed reporting.

Go deeper

PG&E agrees to pay $125 million for 2019 Kincade Fire

Firefighters set a back fire along a hillside near PG&E power lines during firefighting operations to battle the Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, Calif., on Oct. 26, 2019. Photo: Philip Pachec/AFP via Getty Images

Pacific Gas & Electric reached a $125 million settlement with California's energy regulator Tuesday over the 2019 Kincade Fire, which burned more than 77,000 acres, destroyed hundreds of homes and injured four people in Sonoma County.

The big picture: The California Public Utilities Commission said in a statement the proposed settlement would address "multiple violations" that its safety and enforcement division found — notably a worn power line that investigators said "failed" and broke off a transmission tower during the blaze.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

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