"SUSANVILLE, Calif. — One grew to a size larger than Rhode Island and leveled a Gold Rush-era town. Another swelled to a quarter million acres as it came within a few miles of Lake Tahoe. Another burned down 900 buildings and was the first ever to reach a million acres.
In the past two years, California has found itself under siege from more large-scale fires burning with greater intensity than at any time on record. Giant blazes are tearing across the state with greater speed and frequency, destroying towns and sending smoke hurtling hundreds of miles away. Nine of California’s 20 largest fires have occurred since 2020, according to Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency. Four of them are still burning. The fires have forced state and federal officials to marshal armies of people and resources at all cost.
In late August, New York Times journalists shadowed emergency crews in a remote forested area of Northern California as they battled the Dixie fire, which at nearly a million acres is the second largest fire in state history. Over several weeks, the operation grew to a scale rarely seen before: Thousands of personnel were deployed, as well as hundreds of bulldozers, aircraft and other equipment, along with millions of gallons of water and flame retardant. Officials spent more than $610 million over three months to bring the fire under control — by far the most expensive suppression campaign in California history, according to the head of Cal Fire."