North­ern Cal­i­for­nia finds it­self be­sieged again

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - DON THOMP­SON OROVILLE, CALIF. —

Five months ago, it was fears over flood­ing. Now it’s flames.

When Chuck Wilsey was or­dered to flee over the week­end as a wild­fire roared near his ranch home in Oroville, he was ready. He started keep­ing his truck and camper loaded with sup­plies back in Fe­bru­ary, when some of the heav­i­est win­ter rains on record in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia nearly led to cat­a­strophic flood­ing be­low the na­tion’s tallest dam.

“Fire and flood so close to­gether,” he mar­velled on Mon­day at a Red Cross shel­ter. “We just try to stay pre­pared,”

Wilsey, 53, and his fam­ily were among about 4,000 peo­ple evac­u­ated as flames raced through grassy foothills in the Sierra Ne­vada, about 97 kilo­me­tres north of Sacra­mento. Po­lice drove through neigh­bour­hoods an­nounc­ing evac­u­a­tion or­ders over loud­speak­ers.

Crews were mak­ing progress against that fire and dozens of oth­ers across Cal­i­for­nia, Colorado, Ari­zona and New Mex­ico, and into Canada.

Au­thor­i­ties were hope­ful some Oroville evac­uees would be able to re­turn Mon­day as winds di­min­ished and fire­fight­ers work­ing in rugged ter­rain ex­tended con­tain­ment lines.

Wilsey said he be­lieved his home was still stand­ing be­cause crews were able to keep flames from jump­ing a key moun­tain road.

His daugh­ter, Krys­tle Cham­bers, who lives on the same prop­erty, said the one-two punch of floods and fires was tak­ing its toll.

“Way too many hits. First it’s this side of town, then the other side of town. It al­most makes you want to move,” she said.

In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, at least 3,500 peo­ple re­mained out of their homes as a pair of fires raged at dif­fer­ent ends of Santa Bar­bara County.

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