Third largest ever California wildfire destroys mountain town

Footage from Greenville as fires too hold of buildings

A town in northern California has been left in ashes as the state’s third biggest wildfire ever continues to burn.

Hot, dry and gusty weather drove the fire through the small mountain community of Greenville, where some buildings are made of wood and are more than a century old.

The Dixie Fire, named for the road where it started, was still raging on Friday after growing overnight by 110 square miles, greater than the size of New York City.

Eva Gorman has called the town home for 17 years and said it was love at first sight when she and her husband bought the house where they raised their son.

“We walked up to the front of the house and said ’Oh wow, this is it,” she said, a place where her grandmother’s dining room chairs and her aunt’s bed from Italy fit just right.

“You know when you run across something that fits like an old shoe or glove?”

Cars and homes destroyed by the Dixie Fire in central Greenville. Credit: AP

The winds were expected to calm and change direction heading into the weekend but that good news came too late for Ms Gorman.

She was told that her home burned down — but is waiting until she can see it with her own eyes to believe it’s gone.

Before fleeing Greenville, Gorman said she managed to grab some photos off the wall, her favourite jewellery and important documents.

She is coming to terms with the reality that much of what was left behind may be irreplaceable.

“There is a photo I keep visualizing in my mind of my son when he was two, he’s 37,” she said.

“And you think ’It’s OK, I have the negatives. And then you think. ‘Oh. No. I don’t have the negatives.’”

The fire remained at 35% contained Friday morning and now spans an area of 676 square miles.

No injuries or deaths have been reported but the fire continued to threaten more than 10,000 homes.

“This is going to be a long firefight,” Captain Mitch Matlow, spokesperson of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said.

Officials have not yet assessed the number of destroyed buildings, but Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns estimated on Thursday that “well over” 100 homes burned in and near the town.

Firefighters try to battle the River Fire, another fast-moving fire south of Greenville

“My heart is crushed by what has occurred there,” said Mr Johns, a lifelong Greenville resident.

About a two-hour drive south, officials said some 100 homes and other buildings burned in the fast-moving River Fire that broke out on Wednesday near Colfax, a town of about 2,000 people.

There was no containment and about 6,000 people were ordered to evacuate in Placer and Nevada counties, state fire officials said.

The three-week-old Dixie Fire was one of 100 active, large fires burning in 14 states, most in the West where historic drought has left lands parched and ripe for ignition.

The fire’s cause was under investigation, but the Pacific Gas & Electric utility has said it may have been sparked when a tree fell on one of the utility’s power lines.