At the Scene of the Dixie Fire
GREENVILLE – After the Dixie fire ravaged this remote mountain town, Mike Savala learned that his house was, miraculously, still standing. He did not know the fate of his two cats.
“I asked the cops to raise my window so they could get out, but I hope they did,” he told me on Sunday as he carefully opened the door. from his home for the first time since his evacuation four days earlier.
The animals were nowhere to be found.
Savala, 40, a fire truck captain, is among hundreds of residents of rural communities affected by the Dixie fire, some of whom are beginning to try to pick up the pieces of their lives, while remaining in a state of limbo under foggy skies and persistent evacuation orders.
At the end of last week, I traveled to northeast California to cover the blaze that by Wednesday had razed more than 500,000 acres and became the second largest in US history. State. I arrived early in the morning under a thick cloud of smoke in Quincy, a town 160 miles north of Sacramento.
There the fairground has been transformed into a tent city for firefighters to catch their breath and a few hours of sleep before returning to the fire zone. Some guesthouses have become makeshift evacuation centers, from cafes to soup kitchens.
Some in the city camp in trailers while others resist on nearby ranches or in the dense forest – anxious about the prospect of leaving their homes, lands and, in some cases, the animals that support them.
“You wonder day by day what’s going to happen next,” said Shiwaya Peck, an elder from the local Maidu Native American community, who stayed at her home in an evacuated area near Taylorsville, another small town near the city. ‘fire.
“I don’t want to see my grandfather’s trees burnt,” she told me as she stood in her garden among the fir and cedar giants.
On the front lines of the blaze, tired, sooty firefighters working grueling two-week shifts say they are understaffed and exhausted. Part of the job is to fight fire with fire as crews burn containment lines in cooler weather at night. Others put out occasional fires and embers. Some travel dozens of kilometers for several hours a day: their only weapons to fight fire are the tools they carry on their backs.
“We’re all very tired,” said Matt Sanders, 40, a fire truck captain. Regarding the fire season, he added, “I have no doubt in my mind that this is just the beginning.”
On Wednesday, the Dixie fire was 30% under control and the hot, dry conditions meant it showed no signs of slowing down. Several other small fires were also burning across California – where the fire season grows longer every year, according to Cal Fire.
A few miles from Quincy, the fire front can be seen crawling up the mountainside, plumes of smoke rising above. When the sun rises, so does an atmosphere of anxiety: the layer of smoke that keeps the flames at bay rises, allowing fire conditions to worsen.
For those suffering from the Dixie fire, it can be hard to believe that their bucolic mountain communities have been turned into a hazy disaster area, where entry and exit routes are blocked.
“I didn’t think it would happen, then it was off,” Savala said over the weekend, as he monitored the destruction in Greenville. Last I heard, he still hadn’t found his cats.
This dispatch from the Dixie fire came from Livia Albeck-Ripka, a reporter for the New York Times, currently based in California. Thanks Livia for taking us there.
If you read a story, do this
Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that teachers and staff at schools in California must have proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or face weekly testing. The new policy, which comes into effect today, applies to educators in both public and private schools.
California is the first in the country to issue a vaccination mandate specifically for all educators, reports my colleague Jill Cowan.
What we eat
It only takes 10 minutes to whip up a bowl of these comforting sesame noodles on the go.
Where we travel
Today’s California travel tip comes from Anne Anderson, a reader who lives in Santa Barbara. Anne writes:
We love to take visitors to La Purisima Mission State Historic Park in Lompoc. You reach it along Highway 246 from 101, so you can stop at vineyards along the way. The site recreates the conflicting and tragic history of habitation in this region, including the settlements of Chumash, a reconstructed presidio with weaving, ironwork and other workshops, and one of California’s most fully restored.
Tell us about the best places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] clock.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.
And before leaving, some good news
A woman in San Mateo hearing quack noises from a nearby storm sewer led to the rescue of 10 ducklings that had been trapped inside. The baby ducks found their mother, who was pacing nearby.
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