A Helicopter drops water on the Dixie Fire. Photo courtesy of InciWeb

Upcoming winds concern officials: Dixie Fire burns 552,589 acres

An in-person Dixie Fire West Zone meeting by Cal Fire Incident Management Team 3 offered residents and evacuees live information Saturday evening: And while smoke helped hamper fire activity, an upcoming wind event is prompting fire officials to prepare.

According to Incident Meteorologist Joe Goudsward, there is an additional chance for thunderstorms on Sunday; however, it’s a new system moving in Monday and Tuesday that is potentially bringing winds without moisture.

While the incoming system should help move smoke, “any wind on the fire is going to be problematic,” he said. Winds may reach 15 to 20 miles per hour with chance of gusts up to 30 mph.

The Dixie Fire has burned 552,589 acres and remains at 31 percent containment as of Saturday evening. There are 1,120 total destroyed structures, three of which are in Lassen County.

All Lassen County Evacuation orders and warnings remain in place.

Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton noted there are still challenges on the blaze. For the Peninsula and Westwood, the weather helped the fire make some pushes, but resources and plans were in place. “And it worked”

Brunton shared the fire has not crossed Highway 36 as of Saturday evening, and said there have been spot fires around the Westwood dump area, but they’ve been picked up.

For the community of Janesville, crews , while working with the local unit, put together a contingency plan, and the resources are available to fill it.

Brunton addressed the coming days, saying, “It’s going to be, I’ll be honest, concerning.” But crews are putting plans in place starting tonight.

According to Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon, he and officials continue to reassess the possibility of allowing residents to return home, noting the fire has not burned into the Westwood or nearby communities, but there is still a threat.

“We want to be able to let people go home as soon as possible, but we’ve got to make sure it’s safe,” Growdon said, adding law enforcement was still actively patrolling the mandatory evacuation areas.

He also stressed the importance of people being prepared, adding anyone who lives in the area should have a plan and a go-bag. Once they are placed in a warning, residents should start preparing to evacuate, or even leave the area if they have large animals or those with special needs. If an order is issued, people shouldn’t panic, and should travel at safe speeds. He said there are traffic routes planned should Janesville need to be evacuated.

Growdon also expressed the magnitude of the Dixie Fire.

“Janesville, don’t get lulled to sleep on that warning,” he said. “I want people to be aware of that, I want people to stay ready to leave in case we have to issue an order.”

“This is a fire like we haven’t seen before,”  he said, adding he didn’t think it would worse after last year’s fire season. “The sheer length and potential of this fire is truly something we’ve never seen before.”

Cal Fire Lassen Modoc Unit Chief Scott Packwood also mentioned the critical fuel and fire behavior affecting the fire, noting the area is about four to six weeks ahead of the fire season.

Moreover, the Incident Commander also noted Mother Nature was not playing fair with this fire.

He said there are about 4,000 firefighters in Susanville and a second support base was opening on Riverside Drive.

The Incident Commander noted there’s been a lot of work done around the Lassen National Park, Caribou and Silver Lake areas, and also said contingency lines were built around Highway 44. He also addressed questions about threats to Susanville, he said more work is set to be completed around Highway 36 to protect the community.

He also said the area was very receptive to fire starts right now.

“There’s a lot of work protecting all these communities.”

According to the written update:

Dixie Fire West Zone: Fire activity was reduced much of the day due to heavy smoke conditions, and it continues to burn in remote areas with limited access. Overnight humidity recovery will be up to 65%, which will allow crews to make progress on the fire line. Damage assessment is ongoing, and the number of damaged and destroyed structures may change as teams are able to access the fire area safely. Evacuation Warnings and Evacuation Orders could change every day. California historically experiences some of the most devastating wildfires. Do Not Let Your Guard Down! To learn how to prevent sparking a wildfire visit www.readyforwildfire.org.

Dixie Fire East Zone: Firefighters on the East Zone engaged in direct attack with rotary aircraft support in Wilcox Valley. A firing plan continues to be developed for the Dyer Mountain area with the intent to begin implementation tonight. Other priorities for line construction and reinforcement remain the same. The likelihood of additional thunderstorm cells in the afternoon and evening is decreasing. The forecast for tomorrow indicates slightly more stable atmospheric conditions and triple digit temperatures.