Northern California finds itself besieged again
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.