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Dixie Fire p.m. update Aug. 19: Some still in danger; some going home

It’s an auspicious number — 699,666 acres. That’s the current acreage for the Dixie Fire as of 7 p.m. tonight Aug. 19. The fire remains 35 percent contained. Personnel on the fire has dropped to 5,696, as the Dixie must compete with other large fires for limited resources.

Tonight’s community meeting was for the East Zone held at 7:30 p.m.

Operations Section Chief Chad Cook announced that most of the fire activity today has been in the Janesville area. Crews were able to go direct in several places, and aircraft were used to drop retardant. The fire was kept intact north and south.

Over to the main area of the fire, everything held on  Fruit Growers Blvd and Antelope Lake. Crews continued to be engaged from Westwood to Antelope. The fire is creeping and cleaning up dead material in the Walker Fire scar.

Where the fire is backing down into Genesee and Taylorsville, crews are seeing some spots. Multiple crews are in place to protect structures when fire reaches them. The strategy is to let the fire come down the hill and clean up the understory.

A new challenge today was a spot about 2.5 miles away from the main fire in the Grizzly Peak area that has grown to about 30 acres in size. Aircraft are being used while dozer line is being built in front of it. It’s in steep, inaccessible terrain with no roads or good access. One hot shot crew is in there looking for the best way to address it.

There is still open line in Indian Valley and crews are spread thin trying to cover all the hot areas of this fire, while maintaining the areas that have been contained.

Today over in the Dyer Mountain area, a spot fire came outside of the containment lines and grew to 20 acres. Crews are working on it, with the aid of retardant, and they hope to have it controlled tonight.

Repopulation

Lassen County PIO Lisa Bernard said the office has received a lot of calls about reducing the evacuation status in Westwood, especially since Chester folks were allowed to go home. “However we have several issues to consider,” she said, such as: Is it safe to go back? Can we get you back out? Infrastructure?

She said that there is no power in Westwood, but there is still active fire on Hamilton Mountain (known locally as Fredonyer Pass). The same holds true for Janesville. Sheriff Dean Growdon has deemed that it’s not safe to return yet, but the situation is considered daily.

Plums County Sheriff Todd Johns addressed the changes in evacuation status yesterday for Almanor Basin residents, and reminded them they remain under a warning, which means that there are still risks.

Yesterday, there were some issues with Highway 36 and he reminded residents to check highway status before traveling.

He told the residents of Canyon Dam and Greenville that the sheriff’s office has been gathering information and will be notifying residents of when they can visit their properties to take pictures.

He announced that next Tuesday, the state will start removing hazardous materials, a process that could take 2 to 3 weeks. Then debris cleanup begins. Sometime between the two phases, they can look for valuables.

Johns said that some have been asking why entities such as the uilities can go back in when residents can’t. He explained it’s because they aren’t in the footprint of the structure where the hazardous debris is located. As far as repopulating the areas of Greenville that are still standing, Johns said water and sewer need to be in place first. He hopes that repairs to those systems will correspond with the completion of phase 1 cleanup.

In perhaps one of the biggest announcements of the briefing, Johns said he had asked Gov. Gavin Newsom and OES when they were visiting a couple of weeks ago for money to help offset the costs associated with the fire. “They officially sent a check to the county for $5 million,” he announced. “This allows the county to continue with normal activities. “

Also, the state OES identified areas where they can start putting housing. “I am told we are moving much more quickly than other areas have,” Johns said.

He addressed the response provided for animals, and thanked the Sonoma County response team for their assistance, as well as the UC Davis veterinary team embedded with the animal shelter, which is helping with injured animals.

Johns also thanked several local restaurants that have been providing meals for his law enforcement officers , as well as the fire camp for providing meals.

National Forests

Plumas National Forest Supervisor Chris Carlton announced that the regional forester signed a closure order for nine national forests including the Lassen and Plumas today. He said he knows it’s not ideal, but with over 100 fires burning now, and resources stretched thin, they can’t afford to have any more fires break out.

“During the last community meeting, there were a couple of comments about people wearing masks and gloves,” he said. While everyone hoped that COVID would be done by now, it’s not and some crews were out of commission for awhile due to COVID so they are working to keep everyone healthy.

During these meetings, Carlton always tries to find something positive to address, and he asked the public to do the same.

Winds

When asked about the upcoming weather, the incident meteriologist said that the  winds will be out of the southwest tomorrow and into next week. They will get a little stronger Saturday, but the area will get out of this northeast wind flow.

Meetings

The next community East Zone meeting is Saturday, Aug. 21 at 7:30 p.m. The next West Zone meeting is Friday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m.

West Zone

A brief written report tonight indicated that fire remained active under northeast winds, with spotting and torching contributing to fire growth. More detailed info will be available following the morning briefing and then a full report will be given tomorrow night.

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