Cal Fire incident meteorologist Joseph Goudsward said Wednesday night that a cold front that went through the Dixie Fire on Tuesday made for clearer skies pushing a large amount of smoke out of the area.
The Dixie Fire grew an additional 26,619 acres on a windy day Wednesday bringing the total acreage burnt to 662,647. Containment is now at 34 percent, a one percent increase from Wednesday morning’s report.
However as smoke cleared, fire activity increased in parts of the fire zone. Fire crews were able to drop retarded from fixed wing aircraft near Janesville for the first time Wednesday. Due to limited state resources because of wildfires burning across California, fire crews thought the Janesville area was the best place to use the aircraft due to the type of fuels and structures in the area.
Additional helicopters were also used to drop water on areas of the fire.
Goudsward said strong winds to the north and northwest made for blue skies and he expects the northwest and northeast winds to continue Thursday around 10-20 miles per hour. He said Friday southwest winds are expected before winds as high as 30 miles per hour may come Saturday.
Fellow incident meteorologist Brian Newman said the Butte sector to the southwest continues to hold well within its fire lines. Operations Sections Chief Mark Brunton said the Butte sector is in patrol status. Newman said there are interior pockets of smoldering with no threats to the control lines.
Newman said in Lassen National Park rugged terrain, dry fuels and exposed winds continue to be troublesome for fire crews. He said the fire has moved at a steady rate but there have been no heavy runs north.
Near Janesville, the fire is progressing south and Newman expects the fire to run into itself by the end of the night Wednesday or early Thursday morning east of Antelope Lake.
Newman said to expect fire activity similar to Wednesday’s on Thursday before a change of winds and weather over the weekend.
After six days without a change in containment, control on the Dixie Fire rose Wednesday morning and continued to rise Wednesday evening.
The change in containment comes as additional evacuation orders and warnings are being issued throughout the area. On Tuesday evening at 10 p.m. an evacuation order for the community of Mineral was issued by the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office, making the area the latest to be threatened by the Dixie Fire.
The Sheriff’s Office said Mineral residents could evacuate to the Veterans Hall in Los Molinos and should leave Mineral westbound on Highway 36.
The additional evacuation warnings issued Tuesday in Lassen County are still standing.
Tuesday evacuation warnings were for Lake Forest Estates and Eagle Lake Road A1 from Highway 36 north to the County Access gate and east to Prattville Road and north to Paiute Creek. Additional evacuation warnings were put in place for west of Highway 395 from the A25 Herlong Access Rd intersection south to the A26 Garnier Road intersection.
While there are currently no evacuation orders in Butte County, evacuation warnings remain in effect for the areas of Butte Meadows, Jonesville, Snag Lake and Lake Philbrook.
The fire, which started July 13 in the Feather River Canyon near the Cresta Powerhouse, has an expected containment date which remains “to be determined.”
Cal Fire reported Wednesday night that it had tracked 16 additional structures destroyed and six additional structures damaged. Cal Fire said it has tracked a total of 1,224 structures which have been destroyed by the fire, with 87 structures damaged. Cal Fire announced that 1,674 structures in the fire zone have been reported showing no damage, however inspections are ongoing and are subject to change.
The fire is the second-largest fire in state history. The largest fire in California history is 2020’s North Complex.
Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growden said that a plan has been written to reduce the evacuation order in Westwood, Pinetown and Clear Creek to an evacuation warning, however due to fire activity south of Highway 36 he was not comfortable putting the plan in place as of Wednesday night.
The switch to an evacuation warning would allow residents to repopulate the areas. Growden said he will continue to evaluate the situation each day with a top priory of public safety.
Growden said that Highway 32 between Chester and Chico is currently open, however he added the best source of information regarding road closures is Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol.
The Dixie Fire’s East Zone was faced with northwestern winds up to 20 miles per hour Wednesday. Smoke from the fire’s north end shifted and blanketed the fire’s south end.
A new fire perimeter near Janesville has been established and aircraft are being used to support the new fire line.
Cal Fire is reporting that limited visibility has prevented the use of aircraft in fighting the fire near Kessler Peak. On the southeastern edge the fire continued to make runs below Kesler Peak and strike teams of engines from the West Zone were shifted into Genesee Valley to assist with structure and point protection.
Near Fruit Growers Boulevard the fire is holding within its lines as fire crews continue mop up and securing of fire lines.
Winds cleared smoke Wednesday as fire activity increased.
Large column and pyrocumulus clouds occurred throughout the afternoon as fire in steep geographical areas was pushed by channeling winds, which increased the fire’s speed. The continued activity continued to challenge crews, Cal Fire is reporting.
Evacuation warnings in Butte County include at Butte Meadows at Humboldt Road and Thatcher Ridge, up to Cherry Hill campgrounds and north to the Butte and Tehama County lines. In Jonesville the warning includes the area of Highway 32 at the Butte and Tehama County line, east to the area of Cherry Hill campground, southeast to Snake Lake, southwest to Skyway at Bull Creek, and north along Skyway to Humboldt Road. The Lake Philbrook area, which includes Philbrook Lake south to Browns Ravine Road, is also under an evacuation warning.