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All Eyes On Dixie Fire As Blaze Enters Second Month

A detailed, illustrated map showing the outline of the Dixie Path. There are two colors used on the map, with red lines representing active fire areas and black lines representing areas that are contained. Both colors cover large areas of California land.
A map showing the areas where the Dixie Fire is actively burning, as well as the containment line, as of Friday, Aug. 13, at 11:39 a.m. PT.

KUNR is providing updates on the Dixie Fire as they relate to Susanville and our listening area. Visit our live blog to view recent updates.

The Dixie Fire, the largest single wildfire in California’s history, continues to burn about 100 miles northwest of Reno. Now officially a month old, the blaze has destroyed hundreds of homes and it’s torched more than 500,000 acres in Plumas and Lassen National Forests. KUNR Morning Edition host Noah Glick spoke with senior reporter Paul Boger to get the latest details on the fire and more.

Noah Glick: First off, let’s talk about safety. This is a massive fire that’s burning on the edge of our listening area. So we still got mandatory evacuations in some areas. So how close are you and the rest of the KUNR news team keeping on this particular blaze?

Paul Boger: Obviously, everyone is keeping their eye on this fire because it’s absolutely massive: 515,000 acres, as of the last update we got last night, and 6,200 personnel are working on the fire. And the way we’re covering it is that it’s still technically outside of our listening area, but it is incredibly close to Susanville. One of our reporters, Lucia Starbuck, was up there a few days ago. She said it’s about seven miles away from Susanville, which has also served as incident command and as an evacuation hub for folks ordered to leave. So we’re very much keeping an eye on what’s happening about a hundred miles north, northwest of Reno.

That being said, it could very easily, that fire, move into the listening area, move into Susanville over the weekend. If that happens, we will definitely have updates on air about evacuation orders, if there are any, and of course, on our website. That being said, though, one of the good things is that there was the Sheep Fire last year, which caused its own chaos in Susanville, but that burn scar is still there, and it’s actually preventing a lot of what’s happening with the Dixie Fire from quickly moving into Susanville. So that actually is a blessing there.

Glick: Well, and of course, the most obvious way that we’re experiencing this fire is through poor air quality throughout the entire region. Most of Northern Nevada has essentially lived under a blanket of smoke and haze for more than a week now. Do we have a sense of when that might improve?

Boger: You know what? Actually, as we’re talking on Friday, I think it’s probably the nicest day we’ve seen in quite a while, but you know, that’s probably going to be short-lived. That’s because of smoke from the Dixie Fire, north of us. We’ve got the River Fire. The Monument Fire out near Redding. All of those, actually seven fires in total, are billowing smoke into the Truckee Meadows and across Northern Nevada, and we’ve had very little wind.

That, of course, could change a little over the weekend as some storms pass through, but that’s supposed to dry up by Sunday, putting us right back where we were early next week. And all of this being said, you know, there’s a new report out last week from some Desert Research Institute researchers that shows that there is a link between wildfire smoke and increased risk of contracting COVID-19. So just had another little worry there.

Glick: And speaking of COVID, we’ve been reporting significant increases in coronavirus metrics over the last several weeks here in Nevada, but health officials announced the first COVID-19 breakthrough death in Washoe County this week. Can you briefly explain what that means and what happened?

Boger: So a man in his ’80s with underlying health conditions died from COVID-19 this week even though he had been vaccinated. So far, there’s been about 516 breakthrough cases in total in Washoe County. And what that means is that these are people who have been vaccinated but ended up getting COVID-19 anyway. At this point, we have 516 [breakthrough] cases, one death. It’s much lower [of a mortality rate] than we saw in the initial wave of COVID-19 and that we’re still seeing with the unvaccinated, which goes to show you, all of this is part of this ongoing need for vaccinations.

That’s why you’re hearing so many health officials, so many government officials, talking about this need for vaccinations because it just appears that there is a segment of the population that either does not care about the science or does not care about their neighbors’ health and wellbeing enough to get the vaccination. So it’s really gotta be one of those things where you’ve got to look out for you and yours. I mean, take what happened this week at Marce Herz Middle School in Washoe County. I mean, that’s a perfect example of the need for vaccinations and for you to go ahead and get vaccinated if you’re not.

Glick: Well, I mean, if you’re going to bring it up, Paul, we have to talk about it.

Boger: So a parent apparently knowingly sent their kid to school after they tested positive for COVID-19. Apparently, the parent also tested positive for COVID-19 and sent them to the first day of school in Washoe County, which is this week. And lo and behold, 80 kids, 80 people, may have been exposed to COVID-19 because this parent sent their child to school knowingly. And here’s the thing: They haven’t been in contact with the district, and they’re not getting back to health officials that we’ve heard of. So we don’t know if there’s going to be any consequences for this. You know, what is the issue if you just send your kid to school knowingly with COVID-19? These are a lot of interesting questions that are going to be raised in the near future.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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