Wind Complex fires push Nevada and Butte county residents from their homes

Much of the area around Rough and Ready was under evacuation Monday as the Lobo fire burned out of control. Tim Galvin talked about previous mandatory evacuations as he waited with some of his neighbors to see if the fire posed imminent threat before leav

As smoke drifted across the foothills around Rough and Ready, residents interpreted the term ‘mandatory evacuation’ with varying degrees of urgency.

Some, like Larry and RoJean Danilson who lived in Wildwood, packed up their pet cat, Angie, along with a few cherished possessions, and left shortly after getting notice of the order around 7 a.m. Lacking information about where they might find temporary shelter, they’d gone out to lunch, then drifted back toward their neighborhood in the hopes the evacuation would soon be lifted.

They were sitting in a parking lot off Pleasant Valley Road giving Angie a drink of water about 1:30 p.m., contemplating where to go next, and feeling cast adrift amid the chaotically called evacuation.

Patrick Cunningham, who was parked nearby with his cat Chibi, strolled over to see if they knew anything about the status of their neighborhood, and the three commiserated about their plight. Cunningham, who wasn’t feeling well, was trying to decide whether it was worth it to drive to Sacramento to stay with friends.

Power was out to a large swath of Nevada County, although some businesses- such as the Sierra Express off of Pleasant Valley Road, in whose parking lot the Danilsons and Cunningham had taken refuge- were open on a ‘cash only’ basis. However, lacking electricity, gas pumps weren’t working.

Quite a few Rough and Ready area residents appeared to be taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude to the order.

Philip Thorman was with his two German shepherds, several other friends and dogs and a cage of chickens sitting outside a house off of one of the many narrow, winding roads around the town.

Thorman had sent his son to safety. He paused a long time before answering why he hadn’t left.

“I’m just going by my gut and my heart right now, you know -- instinct, intuition,” he said. “I’m feeling it all out with my neighbors, and we’re working together. Seeing what’s going on. Listening to scanners all the time. So we’re on it. But we’re not stupid. We’ll leave in a heartbeat if we have to.”

Area residents said the fire appeared to have started from power lines or a transformer that blew up in strong winds Sunday night. It was one of several fires in the area, which altogether were dubbed the Wind Complex Fire. In addition to the Lobo, which had burned 900 acres and had no containment as of 5 p.m. Monday, were the Cascade, McCourtney and LaPort fires, according to Cal Fire.

A full count of houses and other buildings destroyed wasn’t available Monday afternoon. The McCourtney Fire burned at least 11 and “multiple fires” were lost in the La Port fires. It was evident that houses were burning in the Lobo fire, but no count was available.

The McCourtney fire knocked out electricity around the fairgrounds, but did not appear to have affected nearby Grass Valley homes or businesses. Area schools, including those of the Grass Valley School District, were closed due to the evacuation.

Shelters in Nevada County included the Twin City and First Baptist Church, with temporary shelter for animals provided at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Cal Fire officials and other first responder resources were stretched thin Monday as fires dotted Central California.

Thorman said the helicopters that continually circled about had been called off for a time when Napa County was evacuating a hospital.

“Thank you all to fire service, CHP with their buckets, everybody – appreciate it,” Thorman added.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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