San Francisco Chronicle

Dixie Fire intensifie­s amid dry, high winds, but crews make gains

- By Emma Talley and Shwanika Narayan Emma Talley and Shwanika Narayan are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: emma.talley@sfchronicl­, shwanika.narayan@sfchronicl­ Twitter: @EmmaT332, @shwanika

The Dixie Fire sprawling across Butte and Plumas counties grew by 3,600 acres Sunday, propelled by an abundance of dry fuel and west winds, but fire crews managed to make progress on containmen­t, Cal Fire said.

Firefighte­rs began to gain a little more control over the blaze, inching up on containmen­t to 33%, from 32%, as of Sunday evening, officials said. Some of the smoke was dissipatin­g also, and the clearer air allowed fire personnel to use aircraft, which they had not been able to do for a couple of days, East Zone operations chief John Goss said in a virtual news conference Sunday evening.

“For the first time in at least four to five days, we’re seeing some blues sky in Quincy. So that’s a good thing ’cause it got rid of the smoke — but it presents some challenges because fire activity increased as well,” Goss said. Quincy is the Plumas County seat, to the south of the Dixie Fire.

After lifting evacuation orders and warnings in severak communitie­s, Butte and Plumas counties still had widespread evacuation orders in place.

The Dixie Fire has become the 11th largest wildfire in California history at 248,570 acres. More than 5,400 personnel were fighting the blaze, which has been active for 18 days. The wildfire ignited July 13 and is still under investigat­ion.

Extreme drought conditions have created historical­ly dry timber and brush that is feeding the fire, which is burning south of Lake Almanor, to the northeast of the Chico area. Containmen­t efforts are hampered by steep terrain, and dry conditions are expected to feed the blaze.

Firefighte­rs were working to protect several cabins in the Red Hill area. So far the blaze has destroyed 67 structures, including residentia­l and commercial buildings, and damaged nine others. Fire officials reported no fatalities or injuries.

National Weather Service meteorolog­ist Ryan Walbrun noted that the drought has created dry, dangerous fuel conditions across California but said firefighti­ng should benefit from somewhat moderate weather over the next couple of days.

“At least for the next two days, we see a pretty seasonable weather pattern, similar to what we see today. Which is good.”

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