Susanville, Calif., Faces Dual Threat of Dixie Fire and a Lost Employer

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Gary Mooney prepared to evacuate his location  connected  Monday arsenic  the Dixie occurrence  burned toward Susanville, Calif.
Credit...Noah Berger/Associated Press
  • Aug. 17, 2021, 4:31 p.m. ET

As the Dixie occurrence has burned done Northern California implicit the past month, the metropolis of Susanville successful the foothills of the Sierra Nevada has go a refuge.

Panicked residents of evacuated communities, including the devastated municipality of Greenville astir an hr and a fractional away, person sought structure astatine a section assemblage college. Firefighters person acceptable up a basal campy astatine the city’s fairgrounds, wherever ample animals are being kept to support them from the fire.

Now, with winds picking up connected Tuesday, determination are increasing concerns that Susanville itself is nether menace from the blaze, the second-largest connected grounds successful California, which grew by astir 40,000 acres overnight.

With a colonisation of 15,000, Susanville — an aged saw mill municipality that agelong agone became a situation town, with 2 authorities prisons and a national installation successful the portion — is the largest assemblage yet to autumn successful the fire’s path.

“It’s concerning,” said Mayor Mendy Schuster, who was packing up clothing, collecting household pictures and gathering important documents connected Tuesday greeting arsenic she prepared for imaginable mandatory evacuation orders.

“Lots of prayers,” she added.

Other residents were pursuing her lead, loading up important items and backing their cars into their driveways to let for a quicker exit if evacuation orders arrived. At the aforesaid time, the assemblage was being warned that state stations were moving debased due to the fact that substance trucks could not get in.

Officials battling the Dixie fire, which has consumed much than 600,000 acres and astatine slightest 1,100 buildings, including 630 homes, were grappling with the anticipation of evacuating not lone residents of Susanville but the thousands of others who person sought information there.

That includes galore residents from adjacent Janesville, with a colonisation of astir 1,400, wherever the occurrence connected Monday forced evacuation orders.

“There has been immoderate beauteous aggravated occurrence activity,” said Dan McKeague, a nationalist accusation serviceman for the U.S. Forest Service, which is successful complaint of overmuch of the onshore wherever the Dixie occurrence has been burning. “Today we’ll apt spot 200-foot occurrence lengths again.”

That means firefighters are not capable to straight onslaught the occurrence from up adjacent — they are mostly lone capable to erstwhile the flames are nether 4 feet precocious — and alternatively are focused connected digging containment lines with bulldozers.

Fire officials said those lines, arsenic good arsenic a pain scar from a occurrence past year, should assistance support Susanville. But a greater concern, with the unpredictability of the winds, is that embers could alert up and commencement spot fires.

“We’re virtually astatine the whim of the upwind close now,” said Lisa Bernard, a spokeswoman for the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office. “There is decidedly a threat.”

The economical basal of Susanville, the region seat, mostly relies connected the adjacent prisons. The authorities precocious announced plans to adjacent 1 of the facilities there; inmate populations person declined due to the fact that of transgression justness reforms including sentencing.

The program has been met with pushback from Susanville, which has filed a suit against the authorities successful an effort to halt the closure and support the jobs and gross there.

There were nary plans to evacuate the authorities prisons connected Tuesday, said Dana Simas, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She said that the occurrence was astir 13 miles away, and that officials had taken steps to bounds the interaction of unhealthy aerial by limiting the question of radical wrong and distributing N95 masks.

Even arsenic Susanville prepared connected Tuesday for the fire, a tribunal proceeding for the city’s suit to support the situation unfastened was expected to spell connected arsenic scheduled successful the afternoon.

Dan Newton, Susanville’s interim metropolis administrator, lives connected the outskirts of municipality and was ordered to evacuate connected Monday. He spent the nighttime successful his R.V., parked connected a metropolis street.

When reached by telephone connected Tuesday morning, helium said helium was heading into a readying gathering astir the imaginable evacuation of the city, earlier attending the day tribunal hearing.

“The interest is high,” helium said. “The winds are expanding successful speed.”

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