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Firefighters monitoring the scene as flames from the Dixie Fire jump across highway 89 near Greenville, California, on Tuesday. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Two massive California wildfires have triggered new mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of people and destroyed homes and businesses in the state's north overnight.

Details: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through the town of Greenville and surrounding areas in Plumas County Wednesday night. The rapidly spreading River Fire burned "multiple" homes as it tore through Placer and Nevada counties, KOVR notes.

  • Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect for both fires.
  • Threat level: Firefighters were facing the threat of extremely dry forests combined with Red Flag fire weather conditions overnight.

By the numbers: As of Wednesday evening, the River Fire had burned 1,400 acres and was 0% contained.

  • The Dixie Fire is now the 8th-largest blaze in California history by acres burned, at more than 274,000 acres so far.
  • Context: Several, but not all, of the fires in northern California have been burning for some time.
  • 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.

Our thought bubble: 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 heat waves 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.

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 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull — Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling
  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— Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker

Highlights from Biden's marathon 2-hour press conference

President Biden answers questions during a news conference in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 19. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden Wednesday marked the end of his first year in office with a marathon press conference from the White House East Room, during which he defended his record in office and made headlines on several fronts.

Why it matters: It was only Biden's second solo presser while in office. The president said he would support splitting his flagship budget bill, the Build Back Better Act, to pass it in increments. He also called on the Federal Reserve to do more against inflation, and predicted that Russia will invade Ukraine.