Yuba County hosted a briefing Friday afternoon at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds to provide an update about the wildfires burning in the northern region of the county as well information about the latest evacuation orders. Here’s an overview:
– Yuba County Undersheriff Nick Morawcznski said there has been some confusion about evacuation zones because there are actually two independently burning fires that have affected generally the same region.
Yuba County officials were notified midday Tuesday that there was a threat of the Bear Fire, burning near the community of La Porte, moving down towards the Yuba County Line. Morawcznski said this prompted evacuations for the communities of Strawberry Valley, Clipper Mills and the upper Challenge area. After the quickly moving fire spread, evacuation zones were changed to include Challenge and Brownsville according to Morawcznski.
Then, at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday, a grass fire that has since been named the Willow Fire ignited on Begonia Way just north of the Willow Glen-Marysville Road intersection in Oregon House. According to Morawcznski, that fire also spread quickly, following a lot of the same lines as the Cascade Fire in 2017. Evacuation orders were called for the community of Loma Rica, some of Browns Valley and areas of Oregon House as a result.
– Morawcznski said the Willow Fire has been contained to the point where officials can begin to talk about repopulating the area.
“We are not quite there yet,” said Morawcznski. “There has been a lot of damage that still needs to be assessed but at least that is on the table and that is a good thing for us.”
– Mandatory evacuation orders were still in place for the communities of Strawberry Valley, Clipper Mills, Challenge, Rackerby and Brownsville, said Morawcznski, because it is just not safe to get residents back into their homes at this time. Morawcznski said estimates for repopulation of this area could be as soon as 72 hours due to the continued threat of hotspots from the Bear Fire that continue to move towards the area.
The evacuation zone line begins at the intersection of Willow Glen-Marysville Road intersection in Oregon House north to the county live in Strawberry Valley. Morawcznski said that area will remain closed until his department receives word that it is safe for residents to return.
– Morawcznski said sheriff’s office staff members are manning the evacuation zone around the clock to ensure that homes in the area are not broken into while vacant.
– The voluntary evacuation order on Frenchtown Road up to Indiana Ranch Road was lifted on Thursday.
– Cal Fire officials have maintained a position on the Bear Fire so it had not reached the Yuba County line as of Friday afternoons, said Morawcznski, but hotspots burning near the county line continue to pose a threat.
– The Willow Fire has impacted the lower end of Willow Glen Road in the Oregon House area. The blaze had not touched Brownsville as of Friday, according to Morawcznski.
– Jim Mathias, operations chief for the Cal Fire North Division of the Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit, said fire personnel have been able to hold the Willow Fire to 1,311 acres as of Friday. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. Containment continues to increase and Mathias said officials were hoping for 35 percent containment by Friday evening.
– To date, eight residential homes have been destroyed in the Willow Fire, four residential homes have been damaged, 31 out buildings were destroyed and another six were damaged. According to Mathias, damage assessments are still ongoing due to access issues.
According to Mathias, there are 20 engines assigned to the Willow Fire, six hand crews, seven water tenders, one bulldozer and various overhead.
– Tentatively, Mathias said officials are looking to get those evacuated back into their homes by Saturday evening or Sunday morning but this will depend greatly on weather conditions in the area moving forward.
– According to Mathias, Pacific Gas and Electric has almost completed repairing the distribution line infrastructure that was damaged so officials hope to have evacuees back in their homes around the same time as power is restored.
– Yuba County Building and Code Enforcement Manager Jeremy Strang said the ash that is present at residences in the burned zone is considered hazardous so residents should practice caution when shifting through the debris on their property. There may also be hazardous material removal requirements that residents will need to be aware of as well. The Building Department will also assist residents to restore power to buildings that were damaged in the blaze.
– The Yuba County Sheriff’s Posse and the Yuba County Animal Care Services Division has been working to get food and water to the animals and livestock that remain in the evacuation zone, said Morawcznski.
– The Yuba County Sheriff’s Posse arena located at the intersection of Marysville Road and State Route 20 is a staging area and evacuation zone for large animals and there is still room to house more animals at this time, according to Morawcznski. Those that need assistance with relocating livestock at this time are asked to contact the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office.