What they saved from the flames

The Dixie Fire burned the town of Greenville, Calif., to the ground. Forced to flee, evacuees were faced with the question: What do you take with you when you may never come back?

A structure near Greenville, Calif., burns Aug 4.A parked Truck in central Greenville is scorched on Aug. 6.
(Stuart W. Palley for The Washington Post)

PLUMAS COUNTY, Calif. — The town of Greenville was long home to roughly 1,000 people in Northern California’s Indian Valley region. And on Aug. 4, the Dixie Fire burned the community to the ground.

Residents described Greenville as a close-knit place where everyone knew each other’s names and no one was ever in need for long before someone stepped in to help. The Maidu tribe of Native Americans lived there for centuries before European settlers arrived in the 1850s amid the Gold Rush. Plumas County, where Greenville is located, is now about 91 percent White and 3 percent Native American. Many of the families who fled the area had lived there for generations.

As the Dixie Fire descended, residents of Greenville and its surrounding area had hours or just minutes to decide on the items that were most important or useful to them. For people whose homes were destroyed, those objects are all they have left.

The crisis brought into focus a daunting question: What do you take with you when you may never come back?

[The Dixie Fire destroyed this small California town. A week later, its residents remain in limbo.]

[Amid summer of fire and floods, a moment of truth for climate action]

About this story

Editing by Dayana Sarkisova. Photo editing by Karly Domb Sadof. Copy editing by Frances Moody and Jordan Melendrez. Audio editing by Emma Talkoff. Design and development by Junne Alcantara.

Marisa Iati is a reporter for the General Assignment News Desk at The Washington Post. She previously worked at the Star-Ledger and NJ.com in New Jersey, where she covered municipal mayhem, community issues, education and crime.