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Video Captures Fire Destroying 'Beautiful,' Historic Town in California: 'My Heart Is Broken'

·4-min read
Video Captures Fire Destroying 'Beautiful,' Historic Town in California: 'My Heart Is Broken'

The largest wildfire currently burning in California has destroyed a historic town in the northern part of the state, leaving its residents with next to nothing.

Dramatic footage captured the Dixie Fire scorching the small community of Greenville on Wednesday, destroying businesses, structures and homes to its approximately 800 residents, according to NBC News.

The scene looked like something out of an apocalypse as the blaze left the Gold Rush-era town in ruins and a smoky haze covered the skies, The Sacramento Bee reported.

"Reports indicate that Greenville is 75 percent destroyed," federal fire officials said during a morning incident briefing, per the Bee.

Wildfire photographer Stuart Palley, who snapped images of the heartbreaking scenes, added in a tweet: "The majority of downtown Greenville is completely destroyed. All I see standing on the main st. is a Dollar General. My heart is broken for this beautiful little town."

Dixie Fire
Dixie Fire

JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Dixie Fire

RELATED: What to Know About the Deadly Wildfires Ravaging the West Coast — and How You Can Help

Located in the rural Indian Valley of the Sierra Nevada, Greenville was originally inhabited by the Maidu Native Americans, the county website states. The small mountain town in Plumas County is currently home to the Gold Digger Days celebration, which is held annually in July to commemorate the area's vivid gold mining past, per the website.

Greenville was also previously impacted by another blaze in 1881 after a fire destroyed most of the buildings north of Main Street, per the Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The Dixie Fire, which broke out on July 14, has already burned through 322,502 acres and is only 35 percent contained, according to an incident report from Cal Fire.

Dixie Fire
Dixie Fire

JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Dixie Fire

Earlier on Wednesday, the Plumas County Sheriff's Office issued an urgent warning on Facebook that read, "If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!"

A combination of high winds and low humidity levels helped the wildfire gain momentum as the heat from the blaze created a pyrocumulus cloud with a column of smoke that reached 30,000 feet, SFGate reported. Overnight, the fire grew by about 15%, according to the Bee.

Despite the orders, some residents chose to stay behind, adding difficulties to the firefighters who were attempting to put out the blaze and were forced to go into rescue mode, the Bee reported.

Among the damaged buildings was a former sheriff's office, stores, restaurants, saloons and gas stations, according to NBC News.

Eva Gorman, whose Greenville-based shop, Josefina Fine Knits, was destroyed, told the Bee, "The town is completely gone. The town has been devastated and leveled. There's nothing left, almost nothing left of the town."

Kevin Goss, the owner of Village Drug Co. — the oldest building in downtown Greenville, which dates back to 1860 — added to the outlet: "The whole historic downtown area is destroyed."

Greenville California fire
Greenville California fire

JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images The aftermath of the fire in Greenville, California

Dixie Fire
Dixie Fire

Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Dixie Fire

"It came through like a blowtorch," he explained. "Most of the town is flattened. I think we lost both gas stations."

Palley also noted on Twitter that the fire was so hot, it melted the metal street lamp posts in the town.

Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart, told the Bee, "there were a number of homes and buildings destroyed," but could not provide a full assessment on the damages. NBC News reported that there were no immediate injuries.

Dixie Fire
Dixie Fire

Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Dixie Fire

In the wake of the devastation, many residents were left wondering how to move forward, now that their homes had already been or may be destroyed.

Jack Romero, who evacuated his Greenville home of nearly three years, told the Bee, "I'd meant to put down roots and stay there for a while. Now, I don't even have a tent. I have nothing."

Fellow evacuee Jerry Thrall also spoke to the outlet and said he was still waiting to hear about the status of his home, where he's lived for 27 years.

Dixie Fire
Dixie Fire

Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Dixie Fire

"People there said it was just like a huge tornado went through the town," Thrall explained. "It burnt that town down in about 25 minutes."

On Wednesday evening, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, whose congressional district includes Plumas County, released a video on Facebook and became emotional while speaking about the fire.

"We lost Greenville tonight and there's just no words... my heart is aching," he said, before vowing to take action to combat climate change. "Us and government haven't been able to get the job done. We'll take up the fight even harder."

Evacuations are currently issued across Plumas, Butte, Lassen and Tehama counties, according to Cal Fire's incident report. Residents are advised to regularly check their site and social media, as well as those of their local officials, for evacuation updates.

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