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Dramatic video shows Dixie fire, now 14th largest in California history, engulf forest camera

An AlertWildfire camera on Indian Ridge took video of the Fly fire in California as it rapidly spread when merging with the Dixie fire.

The Dixie fire burning in Butte and Plumas counties notched another milestone Tuesday as it surpassed 200,000 acres, making it the 14th largest wildfire in California’s recorded history.

Fire officials have struggled to gain a footing on the monstrous blaze, which is only 23% contained. More than 16,000 residents have been displaced by the fire, and at least 31 structures have been destroyed, according to the fire’s incident management team.

As of Tuesday morning, the fire had burned 208,206 acres, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Over the weekend, it merged with the 4,300-acre Fly fire.

Video from an AlertWildfire camera on Indian Ridge showed the flames chewing through trees and sending smoke spewing into the sky before engulfing the camera in flames.

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Images of the burnt ridge laid bare the fire’s destruction: In just two hours, the once-green hillside was reduced to barren trees and ash.

In towns near the Dixie fire, residents have reported thick, black smoke and eerie orange skies, with wildfire photographer Josh Edelson tweeting that it was the “darkest fire I’ve ever seen.”

Smoke from the Dixie fire completely blots out the sun in Greenville, Calif.
Smoke from the Dixie fire completely blots out the sun in Greenville, Calif. Firefighters said a 15,000-foot pyrocumulus ash plume is centered directly over the town.
(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

During an incident update Monday evening, Chief Nick Truax of the fire’s west zone said smoke from fires that burn structures is worse than smoke from forest fuels alone, but noted that any wildfire smoke is “definitely a health concern.”

Residents — especially those with health issues — are advised to stay indoors or leave smoky areas if possible, he said.

The Butte County Air Quality Management District and the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District have issued air quality advisories because of the Dixie and other fires in the West, noting that poor air quality is expected to persist as the fires burn.

Air quality on Tuesday in the Lake Almanor area near the northern edge of the blaze soared to a hazardous 466 — near the very worst end of the scale — according to AirNow.gov, an Environmental Protection Agency air monitoring site.

Jason Mandly, an air quality planner with the Butte County Air Quality Management District, said those who can’t leave the area should stay indoors as much as possible with doors and windows shut, and avoid letting outside air in.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of experience with hazardous [air quality] levels in this area,” Mandly said, referencing the 2020 wildfire season and the 2018 Camp fire. He hoped residents had invested in portable air filters and HVAC systems ahead of this year’s fire season.

As wildfires ravage hundreds of thousands of acres across California, more is being learned about the damaging effects of their smoke.

Yet the same smoke that is endangering residents and creating hazy skies as far as the East Coast was also assisting fire crews as they battled the fire, said Cal Fire Butte County spokesman Rick Carhart.

“Heat is one of the main factors of extreme fire activity,” he said, “and [smoke] helps keep the sun off of it.”

But the heat-mitigating benefits of smoke also present visibility challenges for firefighters and aerial crews, he said, noting that a small, 12-acre spot fire near Bucks Lake went unseen for hours until the smoke cleared.

Crews on Tuesday will contend with a variety of conditions even as the ashen haze dissipates, including monsoonal moisture patterns that can create huge cloud formations and bring the possibility of lightning and strong wind.

“The weather right now is really strange,” Carhart said, and crews are “expecting the possibility that we could see more dynamic fire conditions this afternoon.”

Evacuation orders in Butte, Plumas and Tehama counties remain in effect. Officials in nearby Lassen County are warning residents to remain vigilant as the already massive Dixie fire continues to swell.


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