Yuba and Butte County residents were cautiously optimistic Wednesday afternoon as the Cascade and LaPorte fires began to die down.
Although containment on the Cascade Fire was listed at 20 percent and the La Porte was at 15 percent, the flames had dwindled as the wind died, leaving patches of smoldering embers dotting blackened landscapes.
However, with wind expected to change directions later in the day, officials worried that sparks blowing in the breeze could reignite the blaze.
Although the fire that swept the landscape over the past two days had consumed quite a bit of the abundant dry grass and foliage left behind by generous winter rains, it had moved so fast it hadn’t burned everything, said Brice Bennett, Cal Fire spokesman.
That gave potential for wind to whip the flames up again, so in the interests of safety, officials were not lifting the mandatory evacuation. Residents who attended a community meeting at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds resigned themselves to another night out of their homes – many not knowing whether there was a home left to return to.
Jana Kane and Yvonne Sumner were among the Loma Rica evacuees anxious to return to their homes – it was their first experience evacuating, and they were ready for it to be over. They had gotten word that their homes had been spared.
“It’s sounding positive, if they’ve got most of the fire out that’s directly across Marysville Road from us.” said Kane. “I know the last I heard, there’s still a few hotspots, but if ash is blowing it’s probably cold ash blowing our way… We’re just sitting tight and waiting and feeling lucky."
When word of the fire came early Monday, Kane and her husband rushed out to rescue their livestock before getting themselves to safety, but after they’d hauled out 16 llamas, three dogs and a cat, the roads were closed and weren’t able to get other animals, including horses, out.
Sumner’s first sign of trouble came when the power went out. She called PG&E to report it, then her neighbor called to ask if she knew about the fire which she did not.
“So he said, you might want to look out your north window and see the fire, so I did and holy cow, to see that orange glow over the hill it was like, I think I better evacuate, I think I better get the van packed up!”
Inside the evacuation zone, Bryan Campbell was on fire vigil at his home near Collins Lake. He had sent his girlfriend and her mom to safer ground, but stayed behind to watch over his house and put out ‘hot spots’ around the house to protect it.
“If would’ve gotten real close, in my yard, I probably would have left,” said Campbell.
Campbell had also witnessed firsthand the fast-moving blaze as it raced across hills across from his house – an alarming sight.
“They’re expecting winds to pick up later today, so we’re cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes. Yesterday we had a few flare-ups on the hill over here that were jumping the dirt road and pretty concerning. The fire department and the volunteer fire department have done an amazing job."