Deer, searching for food at the end of the day, make their way past scorched trees caused by the Dixie Fire
An American flag is placed on a burned-out firetruck in front of the Greenville Fire Station on Highway 89. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
Wildfires

LA Times photographer captures the devastation of the Dixie fire

The second-largest California wildfire has burned more than 500,000 acres. See the remains through the smoke and ash.

With each passing mile, the smoke from the Dixie fire got thicker and thicker as I drove up Highway 89 in Plumas County. Visibility was decreasing at a steady pace to no more than 10 feet in front of me once I reached my destination of Greenville. If you have ever looked out of the window of a jetliner as it graces the clouds, that’s what it felt like, except I was the pilot this time without any instrument training. My only thought was, if I drive slow enough, I can hopefully react quick enough to limit the damage if I hit something or someone.

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I made it safely. Once I got out of the car, the smell of an ashtray filled to the brim filled my nose. This was one town I was sure of where nobody on this day was anti-mask.

The smoke that hung in the air made it impossible to immediately see how decimated the town was. As I walked in, seeing structure after structure burned to the ground, the terrible reality set in. And all those once-beautiful trees are completely scorched. The only thing — it seemed to me — that was still green in Greenville is the name itself.

Two sitting men and two dogs.
Greenville residents Gould Fickardt, 71, left, and Woody Hovland, 70, sit with their dogs, Primer, right, and Sheva outside a friend’s home. Fickhardt owns the Way Station bar and apartments, which have burned. Hovland’s home was destroyed. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Deer, searching for food at the end of the day, make their way past scorched trees caused by the Dixie Fire
Deer, searching for food, make their way past scorched trees along Main Street in Greenville, Calif. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Smoke rises over a forest with horses grazing in the foreground
Horses graze in a field off North Valley Road. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Melted street signs.
Street signs in Greenville melted from the extreme temperature. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

A "Greenville Gas-Mart" sign appear in thick smoke.
Smoke from the Dixie Fire engulfs the town of Greenville. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Residential remains.
Jaime Crane, an inspector with Cal Fire Shasta Trinity Unit, walks through residential remains documenting the material that the roofs were made of. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Burned trees and truck.
Burned trees rise above a truck destroyed by the Dixie fire. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

GREENVILLE, CA - AUGUST 07, 2021: Kelly Tan, 59, left, looks on as her sister, Tiffany Lozano, 44, photographs melted street signs on Main St. in Greenville, caused by the extreme temperature of the Dixie Fire that destroyed most of the town. Lozano is a resident of nearby Quincy and Tan is a resident of nearby Taylorsville. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Kelly Tan, 59, left, looks on as her sister, Tiffany Lozano, 44, photographs melted street signs on Main Street in Greenville. Lozano is a resident of nearby Quincy and Tan is a resident of nearby Taylorsville. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Burned trees.
Scorched trees are all that’s left standing in this section of town. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Burned homes.
Clouds of smoke loom over the rubble of homes and cars. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Smoke and forest.
A water drop is made as the Dixie fire continues to burn near Greenville. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Photo editing by Jacob Moscovitch.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.