Strong wind forces Dixie Fire to the south

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More than 635,000 acres have burned

8:05 a.m. PDT August 18, 2021

Dixie Fire map
Dixie Fire map, northeast area. The red areas represent heat detected by a satellite at 3:45 a.m. PDT August 18, 2021. The white line was the perimeter on the morning of August 17, 2021.

A wind event hit the Dixie Fire Tuesday, and from a direction we have rarely seen since the fire started from a PG&E power line on July 13.

Predominantly from the northwest Tuesday, the winds pushed the fire from Lassen Volcanic National Park three to four miles south. It mostly remained east of Highway 36, but satellite data shows that it likely crossed the road five miles east of Mineral. This growth south of the park alone burned about 13,000 acres.

The Incident Management Team reported Wednesday morning that the total size was 635,000 acres, an increase of 31,000 over the previous update, but it is not clear if that included all of the massive growth over the previous 24 hours.

Their report helpfully included the information that, “California historically experiences some of the most devastating wildfires.”

There has been no recent fixed wing perimeter mapping flight, but the satellite data suggests that the fire did not grow much closer to Susanville Tuesday. While much of the north edge backed into the wind and grew closer to Hwy. 36 east of Westwood, the fire has not spread very far into the five-year-old Willard Fire scar.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Dixie Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.)

On the east side, south of last year’s Sheep Fire, it was very active in Wilcox Valley. South of the valley more of the perimeter spread into the two-year old Walker Fire.

Dixie Fire map
Dixie Fire map, northwest area. The red areas represent heat detected by a satellite at 3:45 a.m. PDT August 18, 2021. The white line was the perimeter on the morning of August 17, 2021.

The most extreme growth Tuesday and Tuesday night was south of Janesville west of Honey Lake where it ran for six miles. Satellite information showed it to be very close to Highway 395 and may have crossed it again.

The specifics about the wind Tuesday are variable due to the broad and complex land area we’re looking at, but on the east side of the fire at the Pierce weather station north of Antelope Lake the wind speed began increasing at 10 a.m. —  10 mph with 17 mph gusts. Between noon and 6 p.m. the sustained winds were 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 31 mph. The direction was not very consistent, but was generally from the northwest. The wind slowed during the night but picked up again at 4:00 Wednesday morning, 14 mph gusting to 34, this time out of the northeast.

The relative humidity Tuesday and through the night stayed in the twenties, finally rising to 52 percent at 6 a.m. If it had been in the teens Tuesday afternoon the fire would have been even more dynamic.

The east side of Dixie Fire is under a Red Flag Warning Wednesday. The National Weather Service reports that northeasterly winds are expected to persist Wednesday with gusts around 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. While pushing the blaze to the southwest, it will also help bring improving air quality to many areas, lasting into Thursday and possibly much of Friday. Light westerly winds may bring smoke back into the region Friday afternoon but confidence in that is fairly low right now, the NWS said..

The numbers of confirmed destroyed structures has risen to 653 residences, 134 commercial buildings, and 413 minor structures.

Resources assigned include 533 fire engines, 184 water tenders, 20 helicopters, 84 hand crews, and 199 dozers, for a total of 6,041 personnel.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

6 thoughts on “Strong wind forces Dixie Fire to the south”

  1. Bill,
    Could you publish maps of the Caldor Fire? I can’t access the good ones you have and it’s in my backyard.

  2. Not questioning strategy and tactics, but maybe time to just do point protection and let this thing run its course. Maybe some of these teams are already thinking that.

    1. I think you’re correct Jeff in looking at point protection as a viable option. Sadly, the way these things are burning this tactic should be given a hard look.


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