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QUINCY (CBS SF) — The Dixie Fire whipped up by a combination of “fuel, topography and weather” grew rapidly Sunday to 18,702 acres, triggering new evacuations in several rural communities as it advanced in the rugged terrain near the Bucks Lake wilderness area.
At his Sunday evening briefing, Cal Fire incident commander Tony Brownell said firefighters faced a stiff challenge battling the northeastern area of the massive blaze.
“Today was a very active day on the fire,” he said. “There are three things that really affect a fire — fuel, topography and weather. All three got into affect today when the fire got very active on two different sides of the fire.”
Brownell said crews were trying to create a “catcher’s mitt” of fire lines to prevent the fire from moving northward. Cal Fire was also focused on not allowing the blaze to advance toward Concow and Magalia, two Butte County towns impacted by the deadly 2018 Campfire.
Firefighters are using the Union Pacific Fire Train to protect the train tracks and keep the Dixie Fire from spreading in the Plumas National Forest. California Fire says about 14% of the area is contained but there’s limited access because it’s burning in a remote region. pic.twitter.com/ZGydRdBtW6
— CGTN America (@cgtnamerica) July 19, 2021
The blaze was being fueled by winds and embers stirred up within a massive pyrocumulus cloud that soared thousands of feet above the fire.
“This is where it got very active, this is where you guys saw the column of smoke from the valley,” Brownell said as he pointed to the eastern portion of the fire on the map. “All that super heated air goes up in the atmosphere…So it got across the Feather River all the way down to (above) Tobin.”
The embers ignited spot fires in the tinder-dry brush and trees, accelerating the spread of the blaze. The advancing fire forced officials to shut down Highway 70.
“It (large column of embers) is very common, especially the last couple years because our fuels are so dry from the drought, bug kill, everything is receptive. So if a spark falls into the unburn brush more than likely it is going to start a fire,” Brownell said.
— Vanessa Wilson (@NessaBurdette) July 19, 2021
The fire was 15 percent contained as of Sunday night with 1,669 firefighters engaged in battling the blaze which was threatening 810 structures.
New evacuation orders were issued Sunday night for the Jonesville and Philbrook areas of Butte County and High Lakes, homes in the Butte/Plumes County line east of Twain, Meadow Valley and Bucks Lake.
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