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275,000-acre Dixie Fire becomes 8th largest in California history

The Dixie Fire became the eighth largest in California's history after growing to roughly 275,000 acres at 35% containment on Wednesday. Photo courtesy InciWeb
The Dixie Fire became the eighth largest in California's history after growing to roughly 275,000 acres at 35% containment on Wednesday. Photo courtesy InciWeb

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- The Dixie Fire became the eighth largest in California's history after growing to roughly 275,000 acres at 35% containment on Wednesday.

The U.S. Forest Service reported "extreme fire behavior" in Butte and Plumas counties with a Red Flag fire weather warning in effect through Thursday night. The blaze was 35% contained by Wednesday night.

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"Over the next 24 hours, the fire perimeter will be monitored closely as high-risk burning conditions challenge fire lines," the agency said.

Officials said the fire grew by 20,000 acres in 24 hours, making it No. 8 on the all-time list between the 273,000-acre Cedar Fire in 2003 and 2017's Thomas Fire, which burned 282,000 acres.

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In Oregon Wednesday, the Bootleg Fire grew to 414,000 acres with 84% containment as a Red Flag Warning and Fire Weather Watch were in effect for the second consecutive day.

The U.S. Forest Service said the fire line was holding as helicopters dropped water on the active fire and southwesterly winds brought smoke from fires burning in Northern California, creating overcast skies that kept temperatures cooler.

Ninety-five large fires are currently active throughout the United States, burning a total of almost 1.9 million acres, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center Wednesday.

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U.S. Forest Service Fire Chief Randy Moore issued a memo to all regional foresters to temporarily halt the process of "managing fires for resource benefit," in which agencies let some smaller fires burn themselves out rather than quickly putting them out.

"The 2021 fire season is different from any before," Moore said, noting that firefighters are "fatigued" after an active 2020 fire season and that rising COVID-19 infections are degrading response capacity "at an alarming rate."

"The current situation demands that we commit our fire resources only in instances where they have a high probability of success and they can operate safely and effectively," he added.

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The change comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized the process at a meeting to discuss the fires with President Joe Biden and governors of other Western states last week.

"There's a culture that too often is wait-and-see," Newsom said. "We can't afford that any longer."

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