As the Dixie Fire swept through Greenville, Calif., Wednesday, leveling its downtown area, a firefighter was photographed saving an American flag from the side of a road with the inferno raging behind him.
A series of images taken by AFP photographer Josh Edelson shows the devastating fire and the destruction left behind the following morning in the historic town, which was established during the California Gold Rush.
Several images show the moments when a firefighter reached for the flag, removed it from its pole, and carried it to safety as flames twice as tall as the firetruck raged behind him.
Authorities were not immediately able to identify the firefighter or his unit. A huge number of firefighters have deployed to battle the massive fire, the sixth-largest in California history and the biggest one so far this year.
A Wednesday Facebook post from the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office warned people in the area, “you are in imminent danger and you MUST leave now!!”
The fire sparked three weeks ago and encompassed more than 504 square miles in the counties of Plumas and Butte as of Thursday evening. Hot, dry conditions and whipping winds have exacerbated the situation, along with dry underbrush.
It devastated Greenville.
“The Dixie Fire burnt down our entire downtown,” Plumas County Supervisor Kevin Goss wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “Our historical buildings, families’ homes, small businesses, and our children’s schools are completely lost.”
In another post, he shared two photos of a street running through town. One showed tidy buildings and a couple of cars parked along the shoulder on a sunny day. The other showed one side of the street leveled by fire and the other aflame.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.