What to Know About the Dixie Fire

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California Today

Tuesday: Although it rained on Monday, fire season is well underway. And the state’s biggest blaze is burning near areas scarred from the Camp Fire.

Jill Cowan

July 27, 2021, 8:29 a.m. ET

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Two firefighters, Sergio Zavala and Jesse Ackley, examined a water pump in preparation for the Dixie Fire’s approach in Plumas County.
Credit...Noah Berger/Associated Press

Good morning.

There may have been rare July showers in parts of California on Monday. But make no mistake: The drought is still a threat. And fire season is underway.

The Dixie Fire, California’s largest wildfire this year, continued to burn through thousands of acres of rough terrain, prompting evacuation orders and threatening communities in a region scarred by the memory of the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest in the state’s history.

More than 5,400 firefighters were battling the Dixie Fire, which merged over the weekend with another nearby blaze, the Fly Fire, and had burned through about 200,000 acres, according to Cal Fire, the state’s fire agency.

That’s an area a little larger than New York City, and about half of the acreage burned by the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, the nation’s largest this year. But the Bootleg Fire is burning in a more remote area; 300 people live within five miles of that blaze, according to The New York Times’s wildfire tracker, compared with 4,900 within five miles of the Dixie Fire.

The Dixie Fire started more than a week ago, just a couple of miles from the spot where the Camp Fire ignited, said Rick Carhart, a spokesman for Cal Fire in Butte County. That fire killed more than 80 people and all but leveled the remote town of Paradise.

“There really is so much — there’s no other word for it — PTSD,” Mr. Carhart said. “There’s so much anxiety.”

A stream of firefighting helicopters taking off from a nearby airport in recent days has flown over Magalia, a community that was also devastated by the Camp Fire. Residents there are out of the path of this year’s flames, Mr. Carhart said — but are still afraid.

“They see a helicopter with a bucket attached,” he said. “And it’s, ‘Oh my God, here we go again.’”

The two blazes also bear another chilling similarity: Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility, said last week that blown fuses on one of its utility poles may have sparked the Dixie Fire. PG&E pleaded guilty last year to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for its role in starting the Camp Fire.

So far, that level of destruction has been avoided this year.

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Credit...David Swanson/Reuters

Mr. Carhart said that crews have been making progress in controlling the Dixie Fire, and the weather has been more cooperative in recent days than fire officials had predicted. Nevertheless, the size and timing of the blaze — which he said is already the 15th-largest in California’s recorded history — point to a future in which fires won’t be limited to a single season.

“One of the most concerning things about it is how early in the year it is,” Mr. Carhart.

Last year’s record-breaking wildfire season, during which millions of acres burned across California and the West, actually had a below-average start, he said, until widespread lightning strikes ignited tinder-dry vegetation in many remote areas.

Right now, Mr. Carhart said, the thousands of firefighters who are cutting fire lines, dousing hot spots or doing any of the other time-consuming, physically demanding work required of them, are looking at months before there’s likely to be rain, which heralds an end to the most intense fire activity.

In the past, he said, he might have expected a blaze like the Dixie Fire sometime in September — not July.

“We’re all kind of learning that fire season isn’t a three-month or six-month thing anymore,” he said.

For more:


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Credit...Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

Compiled by Mariel Wamsley

  • California will require all state employees and on-site public and private health care workers to be vaccinated or face at least weekly testing, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday. The new requirement will apply to roughly 246,000 state employees and many more health care workers.

  • The SF Bar Owners Alliance, which represents about 300 bars in the Bay Area, officially recommended that bars check for proof of vaccination before letting patrons inside. According to Eater, those sitting indoors may be asked to share their vaccination status or show proof of a negative Covid test starting July 29; unvaccinated guests can still be seated outdoors.

  • A new poll from Emerson College/Nexstar Media found that 43 percent of California voters are in favor of recalling Mr. Newsom in the Sept. 14 special election, up significantly from polls conducted earlier this year. Meanwhile, the radio host Larry Elder seems to be gaining momentum among voters as a potential replacement, The Mercury News reports.

  • Five people were shot and killed on Sunday in a domestic violence incident in Wasco, Calif., according to The Bakersfield Californian. Among them were Sheriff’s Deputy Phillip Campas, who responded to the scene, as well as the suspect, the suspect’s two sons and their mother.

  • Barbara Boxer, the former U.S. senator from California, was robbed and assaulted in Oakland, she said on her Twitter account. She said she was not seriously hurt.

  • A storm system brought rain — and with it, the chance of thunderstorms and flash flooding — to Southern California on Monday, according to The Los Angeles Times. Experts said the widespread rainfall was unusual, but it wouldn’t do much to mitigate the current drought in the state.

  • Using change of address data from the United States Postal Service, The San Francisco Chronicle shared its analysis of migration in and out of San Francisco since the start of the pandemic. Data suggests that net migration out of the city has fallen to prepandemic levels.

  • An opinion piece in The San Francisco Chronicle makes the case for new, affordable housing in Palo Alto. Though the city’s work force has been increasing with the tech industry, housing has lagged behind; between 2010 and 2018, the jobs-to-housing ratio was 16:1.

  • A month after Britney Spears publicly spoke out against her conservatorship, calling it abusive, her new lawyer filed to have her father removed from the legal arrangement. The petition to oust James P. Spears was filed in Los Angeles probate court on Monday.

  • At Teeth, a bar in San Francisco, customers can browse the menu and pay for their order without touching a paper menu or interacting with a server. It’s made possible by scanning a QR code, a technology that businesses are using across the country — but its ability to track purchases has privacy experts concerned.


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Credit...Grace Loh Prasad

Art that responds to tragedy has a long history, the Bay Area writer Grace Loh Prasad observes in this story. But, as she and her preteen son learned as they took on a pandemic project together, you don’t have to be “an artist with a capital ‘A’ to make art in times of upheaval.”

She and her son, Devin Loh Prasad, marked the passage of time by folding origami cranes. The result, 400 cranes, is another reminder of the pandemic’s toll, but also a testament to resilience.


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

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