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Q&A: More Hot, Dry Weather Forcasted On The Dixie Fire This Week

 Cal Fire firefighters battle the Dixie Fire near Prattville in Plumas County, Calif.
Noah Berger
AP Photo
Cal Fire firefighters battle the Dixie Fire near Prattville in Plumas County, Calif.

The Dixie Fire is now the largest single wildfire in state history, burning nearly 488,000 acres. The fire is 25% contained, but high winds and steep terrain have made the fire hard to fight.

NSPR's Alec Stutson spoke to CAL Fire Public Information Officer Tim Jones about the conditions in the field. Here are the highlights from their conversation.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

On the fire's containment status

Today the fire is 487,764 acres with 25% containment. And our containment percentage has gone up, which is good news. In terms of a long-term prediction of when we will be at 100% containment, is way too early to tell.

Today on the east side of the fire, Incident Management Team Three and Four with CAL Fire are collaborating and working together to build fire lines and protect structures, from the Susanville area all the way down to Janesville and Antelope Lake. As of this morning, we have nearly 6000 people between the multiple incident command teams working together with the single goal of putting this fire out.

On today's conditions in the field

Today I have been in the valley between Crescent Mills and Greenville. It's smoky, with light winds in the valley. Very dry, very hot conditions. The winds are picking up, and fire activity seems to be increased at the higher elevations.

When I say that the fire activity is higher, it's just a product of winds at higher elevations. As we get into the middle of this week, single-digit relative humidities, and afternoon winds gusting up to 80 miles an hour. So fire behavior can be erratic.

On the landscape and how it affects firefighting efforts

The fuels have been moderated, as the fire has burned into previous fire scars in the area. As it goes into areas that have previously burned in the last 10 or 15 years, there is a reduced fuel load in those areas. With that reduced fuel load, it is an opportunity for firefighters to take a more direct line of attack on the fire.

On conditions in Susanville

Right now the fire is putting a lot of smoke in the air that is settling around Susanville and so the conditions at Susanville have been smoky, most days, just because of the prevailing winds. The fire has advanced as far east as Lone Rock and China Gulch, which is some distance away from Susanville.

On air quality around the fire

Smoke is heavy in the area. According to the air quality reports, it is unhealthy to very unhealthy, in terms of particulate matter. Recently it has lifted slightly here in Crescent Mills and Greenville. Prolonged exposure to smoke for the public and for firefighters can be hazardous, so we take precautions by moving people into areas that are not as smoky, and using masks.