The massive Dixie Fire ravaging Northern California has become the second-largest wildfire in state history — with almost 500,000 acres destroyed, four people reported missing and four firefighters injured.
The blaze northeast of San Francisco had grown to 489,287 acres (765 square miles) Sunday — up from about 274,000 acres (428 square miles) in the middle of last week, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The burned area is about the size of Cancun in Mexico — larger than the city of Houston, Reuters reported.
Only 21 percent of the wildfire, which has been active for 26 days, has been contained, the department said.
“We’re seeing fire activity that even veteran firefighters haven’t seen in their career,” Cal Fire spokesman Edwin Zuniga told the Washington Post.
More than 5,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is second in size only to the August Complex Fire of 2020 — when more than 1 million acres (1,500 square miles) were destroyed. On Sunday, it passed the massive 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire, according to the paper.
No deaths have been attributed to the Dixie Fire, but it has destroyed 627 residential, commercial and other buildings, officials said.
Its destruction is still dwarfed by previous wildfires, including the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, where residents had been caught off guard. At least 85 people were killed and well over 18,000 structures were torched in that blaze.
But in Greenville — a town of about 1,100 — only around a quarter of the structures survived the Dixie Fire, the US Forest Service told the paper.
In surrounding Plumas County, where nearly 40 percent of the population is under evacuation orders, the sheriff’s office said four people were unaccounted for as of early Sunday.
“Everybody’s scattered and scared,” Brian Maldonado, 47, who evacuated from Westwood about 25 miles to the north of Greenville, told the Washington Post.
He and his partner, Desiree Maurer, and their Jack Russell terriers are staying at a motel in Redding.
“Everything in our lives is upside down,” Maurer said as online maps showed the flames creeping toward their home. “And we have it good. There are people right now in their cars, and they don’t know where to go.”
Meanwhile, four firefighters were injured by a falling tree branch, officials said. Three have been released, while a fourth remained hospitalized in stable condition, Zuniga told the Washington Post on Sunday.
While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, US District Judge William Alsup has ordered Pacific Gas & Electric to provide information about a tree that fell on the utility company’s power line at the wildfire’s origin, according to the report.
A PG&E rep told the paper Saturday that the utility was aware of the court’s orders and would respond by the judge’s deadline of Aug. 16.