The Dixie Fire, swollen by bone-dry vegetation and 40 mph gusts, raged through the northern Sierra Nevada community of Greenville on Wednesday. A gas station, church, hotel, museum and bar were among the fixtures gutted in the town dating back to California's gold rush era where some wooden buildings were more than 100 years old.
The fire "burnt down our entire downtown. Our historical buildings, families' homes, small businesses, and our children's schools are completely lost," Plumas County Supervisor Kevin Goss wrote on Facebook.
Plumas County Sheriff Tom Johns, a lifelong resident of Greenville, said that "well over" 100 homes were destroyed, as well as businesses.
"My heart is crushed by what has occurred there," he said.
"We lost Greenville tonight," U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents the area, said in an emotional Facebook video. "There's just no words." As the fire's north and eastern sides exploded Wednesday, the Plumas County Sheriff's Office issued an urgent warning online to the town's approximately 800 residents: "You are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!"
A similar warning was issued Thursday as flames pushed toward the southeast in the direction of another tiny mountain community, Taylorsville, about 10 miles southeast of Greenville.
To the northwest, crews were protecting homes in the town of Chester. Residents there were among thousands under evacuation orders or warnings in several counties.