'My Heart Is Crushed,' Sheriff Says After Town Burns

Greenville, California is a 'moonscape' after devastating wildfire
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 6, 2021 7:38 AM CDT
California Town a 'Moonscape' After Devastating Fire
A utility pole burns as the Dixie Fire tears through the Greenville community of Plumas County, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Residents who heeded fire warnings and fled the picturesque California mountain town of Greenville are struggling to deal with the fact that there isn't much town to go back to. The wind-driven Dixie fire swept into Greenville from two angles Wednesday, destroying much of the town, including its downtown and historic Gold Rush-era buildings. "It's like losing a loved one," resident Curtis Machlan tells the Los Angeles Times. He says his home and neighbors' homes were burned and a friend who stayed to fight the fire described what is left as a "moonscape." Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns, a lifelong Greenville resident, believes well over 100 homes in the community of around 1,000 residents were destroyed, the AP reports. "My heart is crushed by what has occurred there," he says.

Kjessie Essue, who fled nearby Taylorsville with her family Thursday, says the school where her husband works was destroyed and her parents don't know if their home survived. "Greenville is a wasteland," she tells the New York Times. "It's surreal." No casualties in the Sierra Nevada town have been confirmed, but Johns says four people are unaccounted for. Fire officials say firefighters had guns pulled on them by residents who had refused to evacuate. The three-week-old Dixie fire that devastated the town and is threatening thousands of other homes in the area has now burned more than 361,000 acres, making it the sixth-largest wildfire recorded in California history, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Fire officials say six of the seven largest wildfires in state history have occurred in the last 12 months. (Read more California wildfires stories.)

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