Thousands of homes are threatened by the nation’s largest wildfire and officials warned the danger of new blazes erupting across the West was high because of unstable weather.
The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday night near the Dixie Fire in northeastern California and in western Nevada, where dry, gusty winds are forecast. Southwest winds are expected to be 15 to 20 mph, with gusts reaching up to 35 mph.
Thunderstorms that moved in starting last Friday didn’t produce much rain but whipped up winds and generated lightning strikes across the northern Sierra. The winds pushed the fire closer to the small town of Janesville, east of Greenville, which was reduced to ashes and rubble on Aug. 5.
Check back on this story for updates.
7:30 a.m.: Dixie Fire containment still at 31%
Cal Fire officials said the Dixie Fire has burned 569,707 acres, slightly down from just over 570,000 acres Sunday night.
The fire, which has been burning for more than a month, is still 31% contained.
While the heavy smoke “dampened” fire activity overnight, officials are concerned about winds that are expected to start hitting the area Monday.
Winds are forecast at 22 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.
The Dixie Fire to date has destroyed 633 homes, and all told, 1,173 structures have been destroyed, making it the 14th most destructive wildfire in state history, according to Cal Fire.
4 a.m.: Firefighters work to protect homes, other buildings north & east of Lake Almanor
The Dixie Fire spread to more than 15,000 acres on Sunday, bringing its size by evening to 570,211 acres, or 891 square miles, with containment still at 31%.
California’s second-largest wildfire ever and six other Northern California fires also are choking parts of the Pacific Northwest with some of the dirtiest air in the world.
Fire crews are fighting to protect homes and other buildings in communities on the north end of Lake Almanor, in Warner Valley and near Willow Dip at the southern end of Lassen Volcanic National Park as well as in the park itself, according to fire managers’ daily reports on Inciweb, a site that provides updates on fires burning on federal lands.
A fire map also showed a spot fire burning south of Highway 89 near Morgan Mountain, northeast of the small community of Mineral.
Winds pushed the fire near Janesville, Indicator Peak and Loan Peak.
In Cradle Valley, just west of Honey Lake, firefighters are working to defend structures in anticipation of the fire possibly advancing. Structure protection also continues in the Wilcox Valley region, between Greenville on the west and Janesville on the east. Resources will be working just east of Lake Almanor, from Dyer Mountain east to Mountain Meadow Reservoir.
The Dixie Fire is the biggest of 100 large fires burning in 14 states.
A California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection manager who spoke to an audience at the Community Church in Susanville last week described the five-county blaze as “a big beast.”
“I don’t want to paint a rosy picture right now because we’re truly facing a couple of critical days,” said Scott Packwood, the Cal Fire chief of the Lassen-Modoc unit.