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16,000 people remain evacuated due to Thompson Fire in northern California


Around 16,000 people remain evacuated due to the Thompson Fire in northern California. The fire has been burning for days in Butte County, where the Camp Fire destroyed more than 11,000 homes in 2018 and two years later the North Complex Fire destroyed hundreds more. From member station North State Public Radio, Erik Adams says residents staying at shelters are afraid of what they might find once evacuations are lifted.


ERIK ADAMS, BYLINE: Volunteers and county employees shoot in and out of the Church of the Nazarene in the city of Oroville carrying supplies and water to help evacuated residents who are taking shelter there from the Thompson fire. The fire spread quickly Tuesday after high winds and soaring triple digit temperatures prompted widespread evacuations in the area.

CARRIE MOONEY: So I shoved my kid, my grandfather, my step grandmother, seven dogs, a cat in a four-door, like, sedan car and took off.

ADAMS: That's resident Carrie Mooney (ph). She says she's been at the shelter with her family since she was evacuated Tuesday afternoon. She's eager for the fire to be contained so she can go home, but thousands of homes remain at risk. She's unsure what her return might look like.

MOONEY: We just got back on our feet after the pandemic and we're barely hanging on as it is, and now this. I'm utterly terrified that we're not going to have something come home to.

ADAMS: Oroville residents like Mooney are not strangers to evacuations. More than a hundred people have died in fires in the county over the last five years. Steve Walsh, a communications director for the American Red Cross, that's helping run the shelter, says the volunteers and evacuees share a bond around recurring disasters.

STEVE WALSH: These are neighbors of theirs, you know, so they've all been through fires for many years.

ADAMS: He says the mental toll of not knowing where the fire has been is weighing on evacuees.

WALSH: This is arguably one of the most stressful situations in a person's life, when they don't know if they can go back home.

ADAMS: Fire weather conditions have started to calm and some have been able to go home. But the National Weather Service is warning of dangerously hot conditions with temperatures ranging 105 and 118 degrees through the next week. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea is highly concerned that fireworks from Fourth of July celebrations tonight could exacerbate the situation.


KORY HONEA: We've had four fires within the last couple of weeks. This is a bad fire season. The last thing we need is somebody who's purchased fireworks from a local fire stand going out and doing something stupid.

ADAMS: That's the sheriff speaking at a press conference. He and other officials have been asking residents to not use fireworks due to the dangerous fire weather conditions in the area.


HONEA: Don't be an idiot, cause a fire and create more problems for us. No one in the community is going to want that, and we certainly don't want that.

ADAMS: Oroville and some of its surrounding communities have canceled their fireworks shows because of the ongoing emergency. And tension remains high, especially for those who are still away from their homes like Mooney.

MOONEY: I'm really glad everybody's safe. People here are really nice, you know? But it's just - oh, I cannot wait for this to be over.

ADAMS: For now, the community will spend another day watching and waiting.

For NPR News, I'm Erik Adams.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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