COLFAX, Calif., Aug.4 (Reuters) – A rapidly spreading wildfire burned down homes and forced thousands to evacuate Wednesday in two heavily forested counties northeast of Sacramento in northern California, generating a huge plume of smoke visible at least 70 miles (110 km) one way.
The so-called river fire burned 1,400 acres (566 hectares) in Placer and Nevada counties, with 1,000 acres burned in the first two hours, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. (Cal Fire).
The River Fire was located less than 100 miles south of the Dixie Fire, which Cal Fire said consumed 278,000 acres and was only 35% contained three weeks after it started.
Social media images showed that the Dixie fire on Wednesday destroyed several structures in a section of Greenville, a town of about 800 people in Plumas County.
The river fire was not contained at all, but officials said they expected cooler weather overnight and a reversal in wind direction to help.
At least four homes were destroyed in Colfax, a Placer County town of 2,000 people about 80 km northeast of Sacramento, according to a Reuters witness. Officials said they would have an estimate of the property damage on Thursday.
At least 2,400 people had evacuated their homes in Placer County, and another 4,200 people were under evacuation orders in Nevada County, firefighters and law enforcement said at the meeting. a press conference.
Evacuation centers have been established in both counties and a pet shelter has been set up in a fairground.
“If you’ve received an evacuation warning, go. If you’ve received an order, get out,” Placer County Sheriff Devon Bell said at the press conference.
“Our hearts are with our communities, our friends, our neighbors who have been affected by this incident,” said Bell.
Carrie Levine, a Grass Valley fire ecologist, said her family evacuated even without official warning because the fire was moving so fast.
“There’s a big column of smoke. It’s pretty dark, kind of like purple, gray, and weird smoke. It’s in a pretty steep river canyon, and they really like blowing up river canyons with the wind, ”said Levine, who studies fuels and develops models for a private company.
Another expert urged people to evacuate as the area was particularly risky.
“In an analysis we did a few years ago for an insurer, the Colfax / Auburn / Grass Valley area was one of the most at risk areas in the state for a catastrophic loss forest fire,” Crystal Kolden, pyrogeographer at the University of California Merced. , said on Twitter.
More than a dozen wildfires were burning across the state, which typically experiences a peak fire season later in the year. California was on the verge of even more area burned this year than last year, which was the worst fire season on record.
Reporting by Fred Greaves in Colfax, CA, and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, CA
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