Thick smoke that held down winds and temperatures began to clear Sunday from the scenic forestlands of Northern California as firefighters battling the largest single wildfire in state history braced for a return of fire-friendly weather.
The winds weren’t expected to reach the ferocious speeds that helped the Dixie Fire explode in size last week. But they were nonetheless concerning for firefighters working in unprecedented conditions to protect thousands of threatened homes.
“The live trees that are out there now have a lower fuel moisture than you would find when you go to a hardware store or a lumber yard and get that piece of lumber that’s kiln dried,” Mark Brunton, operations section chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said in an online briefing Sunday morning. “It’s that dry, so it doesn’t take much for any sort of embers, sparks or small flaming front to get that going.”
Fueled by strong winds and bone-dry vegetation, the fire incinerated much of Greenville on Wednesday and Thursday, destroying 370 homes and structures and threatening nearly 14,000 buildings in the northern Sierra Nevada.