As of Wednesday evening, Aug. 18, the Dixie Fire has burned 662,647 acres and is 35 percent contained. Photo courtesy of InciWeb

Dixie Fire burns 662,647 acres: 47 structures destroyed in Lassen County

As the Dixie Fire continues to push it’s way into Lassen Communities, it has burned 662,647 acres and is 35 percent contained as of Wednesday evening, Aug. 18.

As a result of the wildfire, 47 structures have been destroyed in Lassen County, and six have sustained damaged. The structure loss map is continually updated as teams asses properties. In total, across three counties — Lassen, Plumas and Tehama — 1,224 structures have been destroyed, 87 received damage. The number of destroyed structures may change as assessment is ongoing.

“We lost some structures, and a number of homes in Lassen County,” Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon shared during the Wednesday evening West Zone video update, adding fire crews were doing everything to save homes from the blaze. “And the loss of one home is too many. I feel for all those who have lost their homes, and I promise I’ll do everything that I can to help you get shelter.”

He also noted all Lassen County evacuation orders and warnings remain in place. There was some consideration to re-populate Westwood, but based on increased activity on the south side of Highway 36 and Hamilton Mountain area, “I wasn’t comfortable moving forward with that … The top priority is keeping the public safe.”

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The Sheriff urged those driving to check the Caltrans website or CHP for update droad closures.

According to Cal Fire Interagency Management Team 3 Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton, the fire continued to have some activity today, however yesterday’s smoke assisted crews as they directly fought on the lines, and today’s blue skies allowed for the use of aircraft.

In the Westwood sector of the fire — which is essentially the middle of the fire — crews continued to work around the communities. A burn operation on Highway 36 aims to seal up the area, and, in collaboration with East Zone crews, they are finishing work on Dyer mountain area, which “closes the door for any fire coming from the south.”

Brunton said Westwood, Hamilton Branch are looking very good.

Around the community of Susanville, crews continue to go direct and indirect on the fire, and the conditions allowed it to lay down some, and today’s winds worked to push the fire back in on itself. However, with heat still present and the coming weather, “We do have some concerns that could end up pushing north in a couple days.”

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He said crews will conduct a burning operation on Highway 36 to tie that in, and cut it off from any kind of turn into the northerly direction.

In the Janesville branch, the spot fire from Monday burned across Highway 395, affecting structures. Structure protection continues in Janesville and through to the Milford community.

According to East Zone Operations Section Chief Chad Cook, the spot fire around Janesville turned around with the wind today, making a run back toward the Walker Fire scar, and multiple structures were impacted as crews and dozers continued with structure protection.

Although the Dixie Fire remains the largest fire in the state, officials said, there are other fires popping up threatening critical areas. As such, the teams have had to share resources, but have been working to remain staffed on the fire line, surging to critical areas when needed.

According to the written update:

Dixie Fire West Zone: Fire activity increased today due to clearing smoke and northeast winds. With the change in wind direction, large column and pyrocumulus development occurred throughout the afternoon. Fire in steep topography was pushed by channeling winds, increasing the rate of spread. Damage assessment is ongoing, and the number of damaged and destroyed structures may change as teams are able to access the fire area safely. Please see below for information affecting your area.

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Dixie Fire East Zone: Northwesterly winds have persisted on the East Zone with gusts up to 20 mph. Smoke from the north end of the Zone has blanketed the south end today. Aircraft is being used in support of the new fire perimeter near Janesville. Limited visibility has prevented the use of aircraft around Kessler Peak. The fire is currently holding on Fruit Growers Boulevard where firefighters continue to work on securing the line and mopping up. Around the southeastern edge, the fire continues to make runs below Kesler Peak. Strike teams of engines from the West Zone were shifted into the Genesee Valley area to bolster resources that are continuing structure and point protection.