California’s largest wildfire tore through Gold Rush-era towns, destroying businesses and historic buildings as blazes rage across the Western states.
The Dixie Fire has engulfed the once-booming destination of Rich Bar, leaving much of the ghost town in Plumas County covered in ashes, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“Our heritage has gone up in flames,” said Paul Russell, assistant director of the Plumas County Museum in Quincy. “Rich Bar was part of the start of Plumas County and the start of bringing people up here. This is a real historical loss.”
Among the casualties was the historic Kellogg House, which was built in 1852 and one of the region’s oldest homes.
“The house had all the original furnishings in it. It was like a museum,” its owner, Ivan Coffman, told the newspaper.
The former mining post, remaining homesteads and the historic cemetery were also destroyed by the blazes, which arrived there on July 23 or 24, the newspaper reported.
The fire has swelled to over 428 square miles across Plumas and Butte counties, burning down at least 67 houses and other buildings since breaking out July 14.
On Wednesday, the blazes also destroyed much of the downtown and some surrounding homes of Greenville, another Gold Rush-era town about 37 miles north of Rich Bar.
Plumas County Sheriff’s Office urged the town’s some 800 residents to flee just hours before the fire burned down a gas station, hotel and bar in the area.
“If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!!” the agency wrote on Facebook.
The massive blaze comes as more than 20,000 firefighters and support personnel were battling 97 large, active wildfires covering 2,919 square miles across 13 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Montana on Tuesday was battling 25 large blazes, followed by Idaho with 21 and Oregon with 13.
The Bootleg Fire in Oregon has grown to become the nation’s largest, tearing through at least 647 square miles.
Firefighters from as far west as Alaska and as far south as Puerto Rico traveled to help fight the blaze, which started near Beatty, Oregon, on July 6, NPR reported.
In Hawaii, firefighters were racing to control the 62-square-mile Mana Road Fire that evacuated thousands of people over the weekend and destroyed at least two homes on the Big Island.
“It’s the biggest [fire] we’ve ever had on this island,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said. “With the drought conditions that we’ve had, it is of concern. You see something like this where you’re putting thousands of homes in danger, it’s very concerning.”
The fires in the state, however, tend to break out in large grasslands on the dry sides of the islands and are typically much smaller than mainland fires in the American West.
Experts have blamed heat waves and historic drought in the Western states for making the fires more difficult to battle.
“Crews are working tirelessly to ensure we are as prepared as we can be for the extreme fire weather forecast for the next couple days,” the US Forest Service said.
With Post wires