California’s Dixie Fire is now the second-largest in the state’s history, having scorched more than 463,000 acres of land in Northern California.
According to data (pdf) from Cal Fire, the blaze—which destroyed the small town of Greenville—is second only behind the Complex fire in August 2020. No deaths have been reported, but thousands of locals were forced to leave their homes.
“Fire activity is expected to decrease through the morning hours. Smoke shading from fires in the region will reduce fire intensity, increasing the potential for crews to make headway on building containment lines,” fire officials said in a statement (pdf) on Aug. 8.
About 400 structures have been destroyed by the fire so far, the statement reads, while more than 13,800 others are currently at risk.
Relatively cooler temperatures and higher humidity on Aug. 7 slowed the Dixie Fire, which is only 21 percent contained, as attention shifted to the cause of the fire.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the California-based utility company that has been faulted for previous wildfires in the state, conceded that its equipment might be linked to the wildfire.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered PG&E to submit its own drone surveillance, a description of the conditions and vegetation in the area, and its possible involvement in triggering the Fly Fire—which merged into the Dixie Fire.
“PG&E’s responses will not be deemed as an admission by PG&E that it caused any fire, but they will serve as a starting point for discussion,” Alsup wrote on Aug. 6.
A PG&E spokesperson told news outlets on Aug. 7 that the utility is aware of the court’s orders and will respond by the deadline set by Alsup.
Democrats, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, blamed the climate for the fire. Previously, some scientists and President Donald Trump have said that decades of mismanagement on behalf of California’s forestry management agency is at least partially to blame.
“And we have to acknowledge we have the capacity in this country—not just the state—to solve this,” Newsom, who is now subject to a recall election, said in a video after surveying the remains of Greenville and called for climate-related initiatives.
The fire’s cause is still under investigation. PG&E has stated the blaze may have been sparked when a tree fell on one of its power lines.
Some evacuees told local media that they’ve received conflicting information about whether their homes were destroyed.
“This fire has been a beast,” evacuee Jessi Roberts told the San Francisco Chronicle. “So many homes obliterated. We are a very small rural area, and we feel like we’re on our own. We have people camped out in the woods with children. We need help.”