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California's largest wildfire is driven by winds

Tuesday's windy conditions were more hazardous for firefighters as they tried to stop the nation's largest wildfire, which was moving towards a Northern California county seat.

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California's largest wildfire is driven by winds

Red flag warnings were issued by forecasters about severe weather conditions, including gusts up 40 mph (64 km/h) between late morning and near midnight.

According to fire officials, winds triggered by a new weather system arrived Monday afternoon. They pushed the Dixie Fire just a few miles from Susanville, population approximately 18,000, and forced evacuation orders for Janesville, a small mountain community, according to fire officials.

David Janssen, a fire spokesperson, stated that "the fire moved quickly last night," on Tuesday morning.

Susanville, the county seat, is also the largest city the Dixie Fire has impacted since its outbreak last month. Two state prisons are located in the former Sierra Nevada mining and logging town. There is also a federal lockup nearby and a casino.

Ash fell from the advancing flames. A Police Department statement advised residents to "be alert and be ready for evacuation" in the event of a fire threatening the city. However, no formal evacuation warning was issued.

Bulldozers had set fire lines along the path of the northward-trending flame.

Janssen stated that "we really had our fire lines challenged." Janssen said, "This is a huge fire. It is very difficult to control the flames."

Pacific Gas & Electric was prompted by the weather forecast to warn it that it could cut power to 48,000 customers in parts of 18 California counties on Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon. This is to prevent wind gusts from causing damage to power lines or igniting new wildfires. Many of these customers live in Butte or Shasta counties which have experienced a series of devastating and deadly wildfires in recent times, including the Dixie Fire.

Since July 13, the Dixie Fire has burned more than 900 miles (2,331 km) in the northern Sierra Nevadas and southern Cascades. It eventually fused with the Fly Fire to create a smaller fire. It is now less than one third contained.

While investigations are ongoing, PG&E has notified utilities regulators that the Fly and Dixie fires could have been caused due to trees falling into its powerlines. The Dixie Fire started near Paradise and was destroyed by a wildfire that was ignited by PG&E equipment in strong winds. Eighty-five people died.

Ongoing damage assessments have revealed that more than 1,100 buildings were destroyed, including 627 houses, and that more than 14,000 structures remain in danger. Numerous evacuation orders were in place.

Although Westwood, a small lumber town, was still under evacuation orders, protective lines were in place but the fire remained a danger.

California was also dealing with other large fires, including the Caldor Fire which started Saturday southeast of El Dorado County's Dixie Fire. It has now grown to approximately 10 square miles (26 km2).

According to Chris Vestal, a Caldor Fire spokesperson, approximately 2,500 people are currently under evacuation orders or warnings.

The Dixie Fire is one of more than 100 major wildfires that are currently burning in over a dozen Western States. It has been sparked by weeks of drought, high temperatures, and dry weather that have made trees, brush, and grasslands as flammable and tinder-like.

According to the National Fire Interagency Center, there were nearly 50 fires in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

Montana residents were notified that a fire had erupted near Hays on Monday. The area covered about 8 miles (20 km2) and threatened to engulf Zortman's small enclave.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service stated that it is in crisis mode with more than twice the number of firefighters being deployed than a year ago. U.S. firefighters were aided by more than 25,000 firefighters, support staff and management teams.

According to scientists, climate change has made the U.S. West more dry and warmer over the past 30 years. It will also continue to make the weather extremer and more destructive.

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