The proposed Chips Fire evacuations have not broken the spirits of Canyon residents.
Despite the growing flames, residents and agency officials managed to keep their humor alive while discussing the status of the fire Aug. 13 at the Almanor Recreation Center.
Concerned residents gathered throughout the overcapacity building, finding room wherever they were able.
After discussing the highlights of the fire by utilizing the most recent map, Jerry McGowan, California Interagency Incident Management Team One incident commander noted, “the firefighters have had to chase down spot fires.
“Our objective was to protect Red Hill Communication Center. The first spot fire was put out after a few days but then on Aug. 12, another appeared and we lost power.”
Flying ash has been the culprit for many spot fires.
“We have been fighting this fire with three-digit temperatures and 5 percent humidity. I can’t think of a time when I’ve seen those conditions in the forest.
“The good news is, we have stopped the fire from going any further north, and the fire does not want to move west, towards Lotts Lake.
“I have confidence it will not spread past Castle Rock lines.”
According to McGowan, the real concern is that the lines up to Butt Valley Reservoir refuse to hold. The wind is directing fire to the southwest, and if the lines fail, evacuations in the surrounding areas are likely to follow.
“Firefighters are doing very good, and are working their hardest to control the fire. Unfortunately, this thing is very persistent because the fields are dry,” said McGowan
Many residents were concerned that resources are not being fully utilized to fight the fire.
“This fire is a priority. We have been battling it for 14 days now. It is one of the toughest fires many people I work with have ever seen!
“Hand crews are short but everything asked for, our agency has tried to provide,” said Laurence Crabtree, deputy Plumas National Forest supervisor.
Government funds have not yet been utilized and assistance continues to be available at a local level. The goal is to use as little assistance as possible.
After being asked why the helicopters are not flying, Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood answered “because of the inversion layer and lack of visibility the copters are not flying. Doing so in those conditions is very hazardous.”
After reading off the Aug. 13 Plumas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) press release and evacuation order, Hagwood announced a revision to the order. He announced Canyon Dam has been moved from a sheriff’s advisory to a voluntary evacuation.
“We have waited and watched and now have arrived at a point in this fire where we don’t want to wait anymore. We want residents to have time to prepare for evacuation. We don’t want to make life more difficult but we have to think of the safety of the residents,” said Hagwood.
Mandatory evacuations of Canyon Dam and Lake Almanor West will be triggered when the fire crosses over the area between Butt Valley Reservoir and Highway 89.
“It is still premature to recognize immediate threat all across the lake; however, spot fires are being seen all over so make sure you have a plan.
“I think everyone across Plumas County should be prepared for evacuation. We are just coming into the beginning of fire season, and already are faced with a very tough fire. Be prepared!” said Hagwood.
When asked how fast the fire is traveling, Hagwood responded, “We are at the mercy of the winds when it comes to the pace of the fire.”
A reverse 911 system was recently put in place and will be activated if needed. In case of a mandatory evacuation, anyone with a landline, or registered cell phone, will receive a recording with instructions on how to proceed.
To register a cell phone on the Plumas County Emergency Notification System visit "Cell phone registration for the Emergency Notification System."
Shelter service arrangements are being made in Quincy and Greenville. Arrangements for persons who are displaced have already made at the Plumas County Fairgrounds in Quincy.
Anyone in need of these facilities should contact fairground personnel upon arrival. Vacationers with an RV are welcome to bring it along with them.
Plumas Transit is available to anyone needing assistance to relocate. This includes persons who are disabled and persons without a vehicle.
In the case of a mandatory evacuation, the PCSO has provisions to protect evacuators’ property and personal belongings.
Hagwood assured residents that precautions would be taken to secure residents’ homes during their absence. This could include extra patrol and a mandatory curfew.
“We have the very best people in this community,” said Hagwood. “If you have any questions or concerns, call me. Someone you know probably has my cell phone number.”
After asked what the community can do to help, McGowan answered, “Cookies! If you have a free moment, visit the base camp at the edge of Chester, and bring cookies.”
The wit of all those involved in containing the Chips Fire was a pleasant addition to an all-around bad situation. The appreciation of all in attendance was show by the roaring applause that followed the end of the meeting.
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