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Q&A: Showers And Thunderstorms Forecasted Near The Dixie Fire This Week

California Wildfires
Noah Berger/AP
FR34727 AP
Flames consume a home as the Dixie Fire tears through the Indian Falls community in Plumas County, Calif., Saturday, July 24, 2021. The fire destroyed multiple residences in the area. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Dixie Fire is now the 15th largest fire in California’s history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). As of Monday morning, it has consumed 197,487 acres and is 22 percent contained.

NSPR’s Angel Huracha spoke with Cal Fire Public Information Officer Mitch Matlow on Monday for updates on the fire’s condition and the possibility of showers and thunderstorms this week.

On the outlook of the Dixie Fire Monday evening

The fire has grown to 197,487 acres. It is currently at 22% containment. We've had no injuries and no fatalities. We've got 16 structures destroyed, six minor structures destroyed and one damaged. As of yesterday (Sunday) morning, we couldn't get assessment crews out there to look at structures. So those numbers are subject to change and the reason we couldn't get crews out is because it wasn't safe. The fire activity was too erratic. There are currently 5,461 personnel working on this fire.

On the weather forecast for the next few days

It's supposed to be somewhat cooler tomorrow (Tuesday) and then after that temperatures are going to warm back up to above normal again. So the second half of the week, there's a chance of isolated thunderstorms. The fire is burning in a remote area with limited access, extended travel times and steep terrain have been hampering our efforts.

On the possibility of thunderstorms this week and their effect on the firefight

Obviously, if we have lightning and it hits the ground, it is highly likely to cause new starts because the fuels out there are very receptive right now to ignition. On the flip side, if that thunderstorm is accompanied with rain, obviously that helps us in the firefight because it puts (moisture) down on the ground, takes the heat out of the fire that does exist, and puts water into the fuels. Makes them less receptive to ignition.

In addition to that, and the big concern is when you have thunderstorms, you have unsafe air so you get lots of erratic wind behavior. When that happens, you have the possibility of the fire changing direction and going places you weren't predicting it to go before. And that creates a very large hazard for the firefighters on the line doing the firefight.

On concerns for nearby communities that haven't been evacuated yet

I have not heard of anything like that, but we do want to reinforce the evacuation message. If you're under a warning or an order, you should already be out. If you're near one of those areas, you should be packed and ready to move because the fire can change very rapidly. If we have some of that erratic behavior.