THE catastrophic Dixie Fire has become the largest wildfire burning in the US as residents defy evacuation and defend their homes at gunpoint.
In tense stand-offs, gun-toting Californians are ordering cops to "get off my property", says a report.
The Dixie Fire – named for the road where the blaze sparked – has already engulfed an area larger than the size of New York City.
It's the largest current wildland blaze in the nation, and the third-largest in recorded California history, according to the state Department of Fire and Forestry Protection.
Now spanning an area of 679 sq miles (1,760 sq km) it's just 21 per cent contained as of today.
However, despite the threat to people's lives and property, there is fierce resistance among some residents, who are rejecting orders to leave for their own safety.
Greg Hagwood, a Plumas County supervisor, told the LA Times that there have been tense scenes in small mountain towns including Greenville.
He said that law enforcement officials "are met with people who have guns and [are] saying, ‘Get off my property, and you are not telling me to leave'."
Those choosing to risk their lives and stay home are being asked to provide next-of-kin details to inform relatives should they later be found dead.
Capt. Mitch Matlow, public information officer on the Dixie fire, told the paper: "The lives of the firefighters and the residents that they are moving to protect are put at increased risk."
Get off my property… you are not telling me to leave.
Cal Fire tweeted on Friday that "more than 8,707 firefighters continue to fight 29 major wildfires/complexes in California".
One desperate person replied: "I've contacted Mt Pino's Ranger Station. We are in dire need of help in Pine Mountain Club.
"We are in an extreme fire zone with dead trees, branches on lots, golf course, possibly trails. We cannot photograph without penalty."
Others praised the hero firefighters for their bravery, while some offered their "prayers and gratitude".
Among those heeding calls to evacuate was Charlene Mays, who stoically kept her gas station in Chester open as long as she could – until the flames got dangerously close.
She ran home to grab a box of valuables, including her husband's class ring and some jewelry. But the smoke was so thick that she struggled to breathe.
Mays has spent the past few days sheltering in the parking lot of Lassen College in Susanville.
It's just her, a miniature pinscher chihuahua named Jedidiah and a pit bull named Bear.
"I've got probably 30 of my regular customers right here," she said.
Smoke from multiple fires is blanketing central California and western Nevada, causing air quality to deteriorate to very unhealthy levels.
Air quality advisories have been extended through the San Joaquin Valley and as far west as the San Francisco Bay Area, where residents were urged to keep their windows and doors shut.
The Dixie Fire and its neighboring fires – within a couple hundred miles of each other – pose an ongoing threat, warn officials.
Near Klamath National Forest, firefighters have been keeping an eagle eye on the path of the Antelope Fire, which has thrown up flames 100 ft (30m) high.
Further northwest, some 500 homes scattered in and around Shasta-Trinity National Forest remained threatened by the Monument Fire and others by the McFarland Fire, both started by lightning storms last week, fire officials said.
About a two-hour drive south from the Dixie Fire, crews had surrounded about a third of the River Fire that broke out near the town of Colfax and destroyed nearly 90 homes and other buildings.
However, evacuations for thousands of people in Nevada and Placer counties were lifted Friday.
Three people, including a firefighter, were injured in the River Fire, authorities said.
Since the start of the year, more than 6,000 blazes have destroyed more than 1,260 sq miles (3,260 sq km) of land in California.
That is more than triple the losses for the same period in 2020, according to state fire figures.
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