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Dixie fire in Butte County grows to 2,200 acres near footprint of deadly Camp fire

A helicopter makes a water drop on the Dixie fire in Butte County.
A helicopter makes a water drop on the Dixie fire in Butte County. The fire ignited around 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Feather River Canyon area above the Cresta Dam.
(California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection)

As crews continue battling the River fire near Yosemite National Park and the Sugar fire in Plumas County, yet another wildfire has broken out in California.

The Dixie fire in Butte County ignited around 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Feather River Canyon area above the Cresta Dam, according to John Gaddie, a fire captain with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Butte County unit.

By 8 a.m. Wednesday, it had grown to 500 acres. By the evening, it had reached 2,200 acres and was 0% contained.

Cal Fire warned Wednesday of critical fire weather in Northern California, issuing a red flag warning amid gusty winds and low humidity.

The Dixie fire is not far from the site of 2018’s devastating Camp fire, which was fanned by fierce winds and killed at least 85 people while reducing the town of Paradise to ashes.

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Gaddie said Camp Creek Road — the namesake for that fire — was being used as an access point for the Dixie fire Wednesday, although the location is farther east.

The fire was burning in a very inaccessible area that is presenting significant challenges for firefighters, he said.

“It’s a very steep, rugged canyon with no recognized road system in the area,” he said. “We had to hike in a lot of crews. It is not an ideal place to really get our resources in to tackle a wildland fire.”

Gaddie estimated that at least 150 personnel were attacking the fire from the air and ground, and said more are on their way.

On Wednesday morning, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation warnings for the Pulga and East Concow areas. Both towns suffered substantial damage in the 2018 fire.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials said.

The dryness of the vegetation, primed by both long-term drought and shorter-term heat waves, is making it easy for fires to ignite and even easier for them to spread.

Meanwhile, Madera County declared a state of local emergency as crews headed into their fourth day of battling the 9,500-acre River fire near Yosemite.

The fire is burning on the Madera and Mariposa county line off Road 800 in an area known as Bailey Flats, between Raymond and Ahwanee, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office said.

In a statement about the emergency proclamation, Sheriff Tyson Pogue said officials are monitoring the situation closely.

“The extreme heat and winds have proven to be challenging for not only fire personnel, but those working to support those efforts,” he said.

Multiple areas near the fire remained under evacuation orders and warnings Wednesday.

Residents described being ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

“All it is for us right now is ash and smoky skies and tons of anxiety, given our history,” Madera County resident Marci Kay Livingston said Tuesday, “and climate change, and the pressures of maintaining an income and life with all the unknowns of these fires.”

Firefighters have made progress on the blaze, which was 21% contained Wednesday morning, according to incident spokesman Edwin Zuniga.

The main focus Wednesday will be the active eastern portion of the fire, Zuniga said, while the secondary focus will be extending containment lines.

Crews were looking forward to slightly cooler temperatures after several days of extreme heat, as well as an increase in relative humidity, he said.

Though officials previously said four structures and four outbuildings had been destroyed by the River fire, Zuniga said a more thorough inspection found that only one structure was destroyed, along with four outbuildings.

At least 600 structures are still under threat of the fire, he added.

The fast-moving River fire near Yosemite National Park swells to more than 9,500 acres Tuesday as firefighters try to protect communities in the area.

Crews also have made substantial progress on the Sugar fire in Plumas County, the state’s largest fire of the year.

As of Wednesday morning, the fire — part of the Beckwourth Complex fire — was at 94,764 acres and 71% containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

In a morning briefing, operations sections chief Jake Cagle said that crews are focusing on strengthening containment lines and mopping up hot spots.

Mandatory and voluntary evacuations related to the fire remain in place, although some areas in Plumas County have been downgraded, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office said.

Plumas National Forest crews are now supporting Cal Fire with the burgeoning Dixie fire, officials said, noting that three engines were dispatched there Wednesday morning.


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