U.S.: California wildfire becomes largest wildfire in history

A blaze burning through two Northern California counties has become the largest single wildfire in the state’s history, growing in size overnight.

The fire, which has raged for 23 days and forced mass evacuations, destroyed the gold rush-era town of Greenville Thursday, destroying 91 buildings and damaging five others. Smoke from the fire spread to low-lying areas of Northern California, including the state capital, Sacramento, where the air quality index reached “unhealthy” levels Friday.

This alarming event reflects not only the dire effects of climate change and neglected forest management, but also the fact that the electric grid is still prone to provoke wildfires. Last month, Pacific Gas & Electric reported that its equipment may have caused a catastrophic fire.

The Dixie fire is eerily similar to the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive fire in state history, which was caused by PG&E. Both fires started less than 10 miles apart in the Feather River Canyon, a heavily forested area with dilapidated power lines.

The Camp Fire flattened the cities of Paradise and Concow, destroying nearly 19,000 structures and killing 85 people. The fire forced PG&E to seek bankruptcy protection. Last summer, the company pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the disaster.

By Friday morning, the Dixie Fire had burned 432,813 acres and was 35 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire’s overnight growth allowed it to become the largest single fire in state history.

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