13,000 Are Ordered to Evacuate as Wildfire Spreads in Northern California


The authorities in Northern California ordered about 13,000 people in Butte County to evacuate on Tuesday night as a wildfire spread, burning more than 3,000 acres as of Wednesday morning.

California’s firefighting agency, Cal Fire, said that the fire began on Tuesday morning and that its cause was under investigation. It was not clear how many structures had been damaged by the blaze, called the Thompson fire, but photos showed several homes and vehicles engulfed in flames. No fatalities had been reported as of Wednesday morning.

Sheriff Kory Honea of Butte County said at a news conference on Tuesday night that about 13,000 people had been ordered to evacuate. Many of the evacuation orders affected the city of Oroville, Calif., which is about 68 miles north of Sacramento and has a population of about 20,000 people.

Several state water facilities were affected by the evacuation orders, but there was no risk to Oroville Dam, which is the tallest dam in the United States, the California Department of Water Resources said on Tuesday night.

The fire risk in Northern California has been made worse this week by low humidity and gusty winds, which can cause fires to rapidly spread. Red flag fire warnings, meaning that the risk for wildfires is heightened by weather conditions, were in place in more than a dozen counties on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There is also a dangerous heat wave in Northern California, with temperatures on Wednesday were expected to reach 110 and higher in cities including Sacramento, Chico and Redding. The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning that affects most of Northern California, including Oroville.

Officials urged people to be extra cautious about using fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday. In Butte County, fireworks are illegal except for in the cities of Oroville, Gridley and Biggs, where fireworks with a “safe and sane” seal can be used.

“The last thing we need is somebody who’s purchased fireworks from a local fire stand going out and doing something stupid,” Sheriff Honea said. “Don’t be an idiot, cause a fire and create more problems for us.”

Sheriff Honea said that this was an especially bad fire season and noted that there had been several recent fires in the county.

Last week, residents of the town of Palermo were ordered to evacuate because of the Apache fire, which burned 691 acres and has been contained. The Junes fire started on June 15 and burned 1,056 acres before it was contained in three days. There were also two smaller fires last month: the Bar fire, which burned 36 acres, and the Rocky fire, which burned 18 acres.

Butte County was the site of the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. The Camp fire in 2018 killed 85 people and destroyed more than 90 percent of the homes in Paradise, a small town about 20 miles north of Oroville.

Pacific Gas & Electric, California’s power utility, said on Monday that it may need to shut off power this week in some parts of Northern California, including Butte County, because of the increased fire risk. The utility shut off power to nearly 2,000 homes and businesses in eight counties on Tuesday, the Sacramento Bee reported, and was working quickly to restore it.

The Camp fire was caused by PG&E equipment and the utility pleaded guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter because of its role in the fire. PG&E has also paid tens of millions in penalties and other costs because of court cases related to wildfires.

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