Officials lifted the red flag warning Thursday night, and forecast conditions are expected to improve Friday. However, officials still have not seen an end to the fire that continues to threaten many towns in Plumas County as well as spewing smoke into the Sacramento Valley.
John Cook, a fire behavior analyst, stated that "We are starting on a bit more moderate weather cycle," but that it was relative. "It's moderate in comparison to what it was a few days ago." It was insane. There is still pressure, but this fire isn't over.
The state fire agency reported that the fire engulfed 432,813 acres (676 miles) -- an area that is 14 times larger than San Francisco. The fire has almost doubled in size from Sunday, and containment has remained at 35% throughout the week.
The fire grew rapidly in the 48 hours since Wednesday afternoon thanks to the strong winds. On Wednesday, the fire entered the town of Greenville and burned nearly every structure in the town's main area to the ground. On Thursday evening, it did the same to Canyondam, a smaller town to the northwest of Greenville.
Similar threats were faced by Chester, Westwood, and the Lake Almanor Peninsula as the fire spread to the north, past Lake Almanor. You must leave the area immediately if you're still there. !" wrote the Plumas County Sheriff's Office in a social media post midday Thursday, regarding the small towns.
Warnings and evacuation orders are in effect in Lassen, Plumas and Tehama counties. A full list of evacuations spanned eight page's of Cal Fire's Friday incident report.
The fire has already destroyed 143 structures, nearly doubling the destruction since the beginning of the week. Cal Fire Friday morning estimated that the fires are still threatening more than 13,871 structures.
Even though wind levels at the Dixie Fire have been a bit more relaxed, smoke is expected to be pushed into the Sacramento region Friday by higher atmospheric winds. The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District issued a news release on Thursday warning residents that smoke will enter the Sacramento area Friday and continue through Sunday, raising the AQI.
According to the news release, "Northerly or northwesterly winds will transport smoke out of the fire complexes in northwestern California into Sacramento." A wind shift Saturday night might provide some relief but the clean-out process will take longer and is not expected to improve air quality until Sunday afternoon.
Although AQI levels remained within the safe range at 8 a.m. on Friday, smoke could be seen in Sacramento, creating a hazy atmosphere and giving the sun a reddish hue. The day is expected to see an increase in air quality.