California wildfire incinerates historic town of Greenville

It came in like a tornado. The Dixie Fire tore through the historic mining town of Greenville, California, engulfing everything in its path and turning it into a hellscape. 

“We lost Greenville tonight,” Congressman Doug LaMalfa said in a Facebook video.

The historic Main Street has been reduced to rubble and homes and businesses are charred beyond recognition. Some of the destroyed buildings were from the 1800s. 

California Wildfires
Cars and homes were destroyed by the Dixie Fire on August 5, 2021, in Plumas County, California. Noah Berger / AP

Firefighters struggled to drive through the smoke. Heavy smoke clouds still fill the air. 

The Dixie Fire, which is California’s largest wildfire this year, now covers more than 300,000 acres. The massive fire started last month but exploded this week. It’s been fueled by high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds. 

“The most difficult part, I guess is just no knowing what happening and where it’s at. It just explodes so fast, you just don’t have time to react,” said Brace Rhoads, a resident. 

Fire chief Sergio Mora surveyed the damage. “It’s devastating. It’s hard to put into words other than it’s difficult,” he said. 

Mora was there to provide safety to his fellow firefighters as they battled the flames. It was his 23rd day on the job. As fire engulfed the town, one of the last things he did was close the doors to the fire station. 

“I hope I never have to see this again. The post office is gone, the bank is gone, their library, their fire station, couple churches, a lot of people’s homes, their livelihood,” he said. 

California Wildfires
Flames from the Dixie Fire consume a home on Highway 89 south of Greenville on August 5, 2021, in Plumas County, California. Noah Berger / AP

More than three hours away, people on the California and Nevada border fled the River Fire that created fireballs. Some residents fled with only the clothes on their backs. 

“I have my family together and that’s what matters,” said Lorrie Barnes, another resident.

— The CBSN documentary “Bring Your Own Brigade” captures the horror and heroism of the deadliest week of wildfires in California history and explores the causes and solutions of a global crisis that is quite literally burning our world to the ground. “Bring Your Own Brigade” is in theaters now. You can stream it on the CBS News app or Paramount+ on August 20.