Butte County Fire: Residents Refuse to Evacuate

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">Fire fighter Geoff Belyea, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, walks past a wall of flames approaching a fire break near Concow, Calif., Wednesday, July 9, 2008. Firefighters continue to battle the Butte Lighting Complex fire that has destroyed more than 40 homes in the tiny communities of Concow and Camelot.&#40;AP Photo&#47;Rich Pedroncelli&#41;</span></div>
July 10, 2008 9:02:53 PM PDT
Firefighters are battling to save homes in Butte County, as more houses burn in that massive wildfire. It's threatening nearly 4,000 homes in the town of Paradise and nearby communities.

The governor is asking President Bush for more firefighting resources, and plans to call up more National Guard troops to help.

Despite the clear danger, some people are choosing to reject the firefighters' warning and remain in their homes.

Conditions did improve enough on Thursday to allow fire crews to use an important tool again -- air drops.

Some parts of Paradise are under mandatory evacuations. There are road blocks and traffic is limited. The fire is deep in other parts of the canyon in Concow, and now is threatening Paradise.

The balls aren't bouncing. The hotels are empty. Stores are shut down. It is a ghost town here on the eastern edge of Paradise.

Nearly 7,000 people have evacuated.

Many left leaving their sprinklers running to keep things moist in case the Butte lightning fires creep up in the canyon behind them.

But school teacher and coach Seth Roberts has defied mandatory evacuation orders. ABC7 News found him gardening, making sure his corn is watered.

Then he got down to more serious business, he made sprinklers for his roof. That's for the fires that could come raging up the canyon just a few feet from his home.

"I don't want to leave the property. I want to protect what we've got. I'm going to work around here. There's always a certain sense of when this happens, people coming in who don't live in this neighborhood, and protect against that," said Roberts.

Firefighters have gained some progress in the Butte lightning fires, thanks to calmer winds. They've worked hard to keep the flames on one side of the canyon.

"We need some air-ops, air-drops right over here," said a firefighter.

Of tremendous help on Thursday were air drops. They were suspended for most of Wednesday because of poor visibility from the heavy smoke. Today was their opportunity to keep the fire to one side of the Feather River.

"If it comes across, it has the potential to come up the steep canyon in fingers and start burning through the community a little bit here," said Riverside City Fire Chief David Lesh.

That's the last thing Paradise needs, having already lost 74 homes in another devastating fire in mid-June. Evacuating has become a lifestyle here. They've learned to have things already packed and the animals ready to go.

Despite the multiple evacuations this summer, that's not enough for Seth Roberts to give up on Paradise.

"Paradise is a great place. I've lived here my whole life. I've been to a lot of places. I work here. I have friends here. I wouldn't move. It's a beautiful place," said Roberts. If the federal recourses come through, CAL FIRE says the Butte County fires will be the state's number one priority, because of the 4,500 homes that are still threatened.


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