Fire officials warned that firefighters could face a “significant increase” in fire behavior later this week that would intensify conditions as they continue to battle California’s largest blaze of the year.

The warning came a day after thick plumes of smoke billowing from the Dixie Fire were able to aid in firefighters’ efforts: The smoke shaded the fire, bringing temperatures down and moderating fire behavior, even as the fire grew.

But the Dixie Fire in Northern California is still raging and has now torched more than 197,000 acres. As the fire advanced north and northeast on Monday, fire crews took advantage of favorable weather conditions to continue their efforts at containment. There’s a chance of thunderstorms followed by increased winds and higher temperatures later in the week.

“Today, the smoke turned out to be our friend,” Julia Rutherford, an incident meteorologist, said during a briefing.

More than 5,400 firefighters are working on the flames that first ignited nearly two weeks ago and have since merged with a nearby smaller blaze.

Mike Wink, a Cal Fire operations section chief working on firefighting efforts, said during a briefing Monday morning: “A lot of good progress was made last night.”

“The weather conditions moderated, the winds were in our favor, the humidity was in our favor. …” Wink added. “So that’s some good news for today.”

He said crews were “making progress, but still a tremendous amount of work [remains] to be done. There’s a lot of people evacuated, a lot of people under warnings, there’s still a lot of open fire line out there on both sides.”

The fire is now 22 percent contained.

As of Monday morning, more than 7,800 people were under evacuation orders in Butte, Plumas and Tehama counties because of the Dixie Fire, according to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Fire officials warned that “evacuation orders and warnings are changing frequently.” Additional mandatory evacuation orders were issued Sunday, including for the East Shore of Lake Almanor.

Authorities reported Monday evening that 36 structures had been destroyed by the blaze, and more than 10,000 remain threatened.

The Dixie Fire is one of 85 large fires actively burning across 13 mostly Western states — flames that have scorched more than 1.5 million acres.

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