California’s Dixie Fire explodes to area bigger than NYC

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A “perfect storm” of conditions allowed the California wildfire that destroyed a Gold Rush town this week to explode, scorching 100,000 more acres in the past day, after it was predicted to slow down Friday.

The Dixie Fire is now the third largest wildfire ever in the state’s history, engulfing 679 square miles — an area larger than New York City — and is threatening nearly 14,000 buildings across four counties, The Los Angeles Times reported.

At least 8 people are missing, including five from Greenville, the community of about 1,000 that was incinerated on Wednesday evening. No injuries or deaths have been reported, according to The Associated Press.

More than 5,000 fire personnel are fighting the inferno and at least 31,000 residents were ordered to evacuate.

CalFire, the state’s firefighting agency, said the Dixie Fire, named for the road where it started on July 13, was just 21 percent contained early Saturday, down from 35 percent earlier in the week, the Redding Record Searchlight reported. CalFire expects it will take two weeks to fully contain the blaze, the cause of which is still under investigation.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the state’s electric utility, PG&E, filed a report indicating that it may be involved in the smaller Fly Fire, which burned 4,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada before merging with the Dixie Fire. According to the report, a tree may have fallen on a PG&E power line.

Officials said several conditions created a “perfect storm” to drive the fire’s rapid spread despite expectations that it would slow down on Friday, after Thursday’s 40-mph wind gusts died down.

“It’s all of the things together,” said Capt. Mitch Matlow, spokesperson for the Dixie Fire, told the Times. “It’s the heat. It’s the dry fuels. It’s the drought. It’s the wind we saw yesterday. It’s the slope.”

With vegetation so dry, an ember colliding with it at times “was almost guaranteed to ignite and start another spot fire,” said Rick Carhart, another spokesperson for the fire.

The fire is one of a dozen scorching California right now, and one of 107 active large fires burning more than 2 million acres across 14 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. More than 3.4 million acres has burned so far this year.

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