As the Dixie Fire ravaging Northern California became the state’s second largest on record over the weekend, efforts to save tinder dry land, towns and homes from being destroyed have been complicated by residents who aren’t heeding one order: evacuate.

As of Sunday night, the fire had burned nearly 490,000 acres and was 21 percent contained, according to The New York Times wildfire tracker.

The fire started in mid July, possibly by a tree that fell onto a power line owned by Pacific Gas and Electric. It has affected four counties and destroyed more than 600 structures, including a large swath of Greenville, a historic town of about 1,000 people. A handful of people are missing, and no deaths have been reported.

Gov. Gavin Newsom toured Greenville on Saturday and promised to help residents rebuild. “Our hearts ache for this town,” he said.

In Taylorsville, 10 miles southeast of Greenville, Susan Doran and her partner, Pete Neer, have calculated the risks and are committed to staying. “I’m not going to leave,” Ms. Doran said over the weekend.

The two said they could not abandon their animals. “I’m not scared,” Mr. Neer said. “These fires, they’re never going to get me.”

But this kind of mind-set is frustrating the authorities and firefighters, who are working grueling hours to try to tamp down the inferno, and who say that those who stay behind make their work even more challenging.

“We have to go in and save those people,” Jeff Gillette, a firefighter and spokesman for the Dixie Fire, said on Friday. “Just like Greenville.”

The Plumas County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday underscored the danger that persists, reminding people who have evacuated that “while they are understandably eager to get back to their homes and properties, the Dixie Fire is still active, and the public must remain out of evacuation order zones until they are downgraded to warnings or lifted.”

It is difficult to predict how weather systems will affect the fires, strong winds could affect the area in the coming days. Temperatures in the area will be higher through the week, with a moderate heat risk, the National Weather Service said. An excessive heat watch is in place from Tuesday afternoon through Saturday evening for areas across southern Oregon and Northern California, including the Shasta and Klamath River Valleys north of the fire. Temperatures could reach up 112 degrees, with overnight lows in the upper 60s to mid-70s.

On Sunday evening, the authorities said fire activity had increased because of low relative humidity and strong southwest winds. Extreme drought conditions persisted in the region.

“When you’re speaking of a fire of this magnitude, in the area that it’s in, combined with the heat, the terrain is always a factor,” said Mark Beveridge, a public information officer with Cal Fire. “There are some very rugged, very steep sloped hills that we’re trying to aggressively fight fire in.”

Mr. Beveridge said firefighters had seen “erratic fire behavior.” Comparing the magnitude of the Dixie Fire to that of the Camp Fire of 2018, he said, “these fires are very hard to control, they’re very hard to contain, and it has multiple factors behind it.”

The Dixie Fire is surpassed in size only by the August Complex Fire, which started in August 2020 and burned more than one million acres, officials said. Most of the state’s 20 worst wildfires by acres have taken place in the past two decades, according to Cal Fire.

Source From Nytimes

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