© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US Forest Service firefighter Ben Foley lights firewalls to slow the spread of the Dixie Fire, a wildfire near the city of Greenville, California, USA on August 6, 2021. REUTERS / Fred Greaves
By Fred Greaves
QUINCY, Calif. (Reuters) – At least eight people went missing on Saturday as one of the nation’s worst wildfires swept through northern California communities, forests and dry tinder brush in the Sierra Nevada mountains, destroying a historic town in Gold Rush.
Even as calmer and less windy weather gave firefighters an overnight break with the Dixie fire, the third largest fire in California history, the Pulmas County Sheriff’s Office released the grim news.
“We have received reports of eight people missing,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement, requesting the public’s help in finding them.
Five of the missing are from the former mining town of Greenville, where flames swept through most of downtown, about 160 miles north of Sacramento.
Greenville, with a population of 800, was founded more than 150 years ago when nearby gold mines attracted settlers and traders to the picturesque Indian Valley town.
Most of its center was reduced to ashes. More than 184 structures were destroyed in the city and throughout the area.
Nearly 447,000 acres have already burned in the Dixie fire and it was 21 percent contained by mid-afternoon, said Edwin Zuniga, a firefighter and spokesman for Cal Fire, the combined firefighting agencies fighting the fire.
“We hope to gain ground,” Zúñiga said. “There are favorable weather conditions, with less wind and a blanket of smoke that blocks direct sunlight. It allows more humidity that helps us.”
Earlier in the week, the fire was reported to be 35 percent contained, but better mapping clarified the area, authorities said.
The cause of the fire is unknown but remains under investigation.
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