Firefighter monitors flames in Greenville
Firefighter David Molter monitors the progress of flames along a roadway near the town of Greenville. REUTERS/Fred Greaves

California firefighting crews sought to take advantage of cooler, moister air and diminished winds on Friday to make headway against a massive wildfire that has already destroyed a historic gold-rush town.

The so-called Dixie Fire, which broke out on July 14 in the Sierra Nevada mountains some 160 miles north of Sacramento, had burned across 432,813 acres as of Friday afternoon, becoming one of the largest wildfires in state history.

The flames roared through the historic mining town of Greenville in on Wednesday, leaving its main street in smoldering ruins.

Greenville, with a population 800, was founded more than 150 years ago when nearby gold mines attracted settlers and merchants to the picturesque town in the Indian Valley.

“My defiantly quirky, beautiful adopted hometown turned into a ghost town last night,” wrote Meg Upton, a reporter for the Plumas News, in an online article.

California, which typically experiences peak fire season later in the year, was on pace to suffer more burnt acreage this year than last, the worst fire season on record. Roughly 16,000 people were evacuated this week from blazes burning across five counties in the northern part of the state.

California’s five largest wildfires in history have all occurred in the last three seasons, burning more than 2.5 million acres and destroying 3,700 structures.

Firefighters, aided by a thick inversion layer blowing inland from the Pacific Ocean, were working to stop the advance of the flames as they moved toward the community of Quincy in Plumas County.

The Dixie Fire is the largest of more than a dozen major conflagrations burning across California this week, spurred by high temperatures and brush left bone dry by years of drought.

The River Fire — which started on Wednesday and has charred 2,600 acres in Nevada and Placer Counties, destroyed 88 homes or other structures — was 30% contained on Friday morning, said Cal Fire Captain Robert Foxworthy.

He said three people had been injured, including two civilians and one firefighter.