A major California wildfire, which has been burning for more than three weeks, tore through a small mountain community on Wednesday evening, destroying businesses and homes as intense winds fueled the blaze.
A gas station, hotel, and bar in Greenville, California, were spotted burned to the ground by a photographer on assignment for The Associated Press. According to Plumas News, the community’s library and a bank were destroyed in the blaze.
The historic town in Plumas County is home to about 1,000 residents.
“If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!!” the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook earlier Wednesday. “Evacuate to the south to Quincy. If you remain, emergency responders may not be able to assist you.”
“I’ve been here since 1973 and I’ve never, ever been through anything like this,” said supervisor Kevin Goss, who represents the Greenville area and owns a business downtown, reported Plumas News.
The three-week-old fire has grown to over 428 square miles (1,108 square kilometers) across Plumas and Butte counties. Firefighters had been trying to protect the town of 800 about 280 miles (450 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco by clearing debris from roads and marking hazards.
The destruction came amid a red flag warning issued by forecasters warning of hot, bone-dry conditions with winds up to 40 mph (64 kph). That could drive flames through timber, brush, and grass, especially along the northern and northeastern sides of the vast Dixie Fire.
Firefighters were able to save homes and hold large stretches of the blaze. But flames jumped perimeter lines in a few spots Tuesday, prompting additional evacuation orders for about 15,000 people east of Lake Almanor, fire officials said.
Heat from the flames created a pyrocumulus cloud, a massive column of smoke that rose 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) in the air, said Mike Wink, a state fire operations section chief.
The fire has threatened thousands of homes and destroyed 67 houses and other buildings since breaking out on July 14. It was 35 percent contained.
Pandora Valle, a spokesperson with the U.S. Forest Service told the San Francisco Chronicle shortly after 8 p.m. on Wednesday that “firefighters are fighting for the town of Greenville.” She added that no further information about the extent of the fire’s damage was immediately available.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.