Fire Evacuation Ordered in Butte County

July 8, 2008 8:53:40 PM PDT
New evacuations were ordered in the big fire in Butte County, located just north of Sacramento, near Chico.

CAL FIRE ordered people to evacuate immediately from part of the town of Paradise, the Berry Hill area, Concow and Yankee Hill. Evacuees are told to go to the Las Plumas High School in Oroville, while the high temps and smoke aren't helping the situation.

The heat wave that's gripping many parts of the state is taking a toll on thousands of firefighters on the frontlines. In Butte County alone, nearly a dozen firefighters needed medical treatment before the afternoon sun even set.

"We had multiple heat-related injuries. When we get these triple digit temperatures and then you get low humidities, you put a firefighter on the line with the smoke and heat, they dehydrate," says Riverside County firefighter Mike Mohler.

The triple-digit heat is very intense, but as you get closer to the fire, it could add another 200 degrees.

"It's swirling, and it's changing directions," said one firefighter as he was giving out his commands.

Firefighters carry a lot of water with them and are trained to work in these kinds of conditions. More importantly, everyone else around them knows the tell-tale signs of when their comrade is in heat-related trouble.

"The old skin test, where you pinch your skin and see the rebound, and see if you even have water. That's too late. If it gets to that point, it's too late," says El Cerrito City firefighter Captain Larry Carr.

A number of crews are working double and triple shifts, despite the heat wave, and there seems to be no relief on the way.

"There's so many fires in Northern California that we are stretched very thin. There isn't any kind of ratio, work-to-rest ratio, right now," says Melissa Smith from CAL FIRE.

While firefighters try to get a grip on the flames and heat, hundreds of evacuees have their own battle to contend with: their emotions. They do not know whether their properties are still standing.

The Godfreys had just gotten back from last week's evacuation, when shifting winds shifted put their home in the path of the fire again.

"We just put all of our stuff back in the house last night. And then at 2:00 this morning they come around and said, 'You have to go', and we left with what we have," says a very emotional Irene Godfrey.

The Butte County fire also affected a well-known camp for children and families living with cancer. Camp Okizu had to evacuate about 80 kids as well as their counselors just after noon on Tuesday because the fire was about two miles away. They were evacuated to the high school in Oroville and are waiting for their families to come pick them up. So far, everyone is ok.


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