Dixie Fire: In Indian Valley, Where a Town Burned, Others Fight the Flames

By Tuesday morning, several houses were reduced to rubble, only their stone chimneys left standing.,


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In the valley where one town burned, fire crews and volunteers are still battling the flames.

A wildland fire crew hosed down a structure to protect it as the Dixie Fire exploded near Taylorsville, Calif., on Monday.Credit…Christian Monterrosa for The New York Times

Aug. 10, 2021, 5:17 p.m. ET

The Dixie Fire burned across a growing swath of Indian Valley in the Sierra Nevada on Monday night into Tuesday, threatening other communities after the Northern California town of Greenville was overrun by flames late last week.

Fire crews, volunteer firefighters and residents fought as the blaze — the second-largest in California history — spewed out an enormous plume of smoke and sparked spot fires as it reached the valley floor. The firefighting effort became more difficult when the plume of smoke, known as a pyrocumulus cloud, collapsed, sending out high gusts of wind in all directions.

“It made what was a small, creeping fire into a monster, and they just had to fall back,” said Ryan Schramel, a local teacher and former Marine who was among residents watching the fire from afar.

By Tuesday morning, several houses were reduced to rubble, only their stone chimneys left standing.

A pristine mountain valley about 150 miles from Sacramento, Indian Valley is home to a cluster of small Gold Rush towns surrounded by pastureland that have seen their populations decline over the last decades as local lumber mills closed down. Many of the families who still live there go back generations.

Though mandatory evacuation orders were in place for much of the area, some residents chose to remain, or were unable to travel, including for health reasons. Others depend on cattle and sheep ranching and have stayed to safeguard their animals and try to fight off the fires on the giant fire’s east side.

Dozens of members of the National Guard have appeared in Indian Valley in recent days, where they have set up blockades.

The town of Taylorsville lies across the valley from North Arm, where homes were destroyed Monday night. “Taylorsville is the last holdout and will become the center of the community if anything survives,” said a resident, Kjessie Essue, 38.

She evacuated last week to the nearby town of Quincy with her husband, parents and three children. They packed their goats, but left their chickens and ducks behind. “We just made sure everyone had a special stuffy, their clothes, some documents,” she said. “And some camping stuff. Because who knows where we will land.”

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