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Death toll in North Complex Fire in Butte County rises to 15

Cal Fire officials said fire crews saw a fair amount of success in their battle against the North Complex West Zone Fire.

CHICO, Calif. — 7:30 p.m. update:

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. -- A total of 15 lives have been claimed by the North Complex West Zone Fire burning in Butte County. Sheriff Kory Honea confirmed the 15 deaths on Monday during the Cal Fire press conference.

As the number of deaths increase, the number of missing persons has dropped to two. Honea said his office is working on good leads in the search effort.

As it stands, the North Complex West Zone has burned a total of 76,900 acres with 20% containment. The North Complex as a whole is at 264,000 acres with 39% containment.

Officials said 376 homes have been destroyed with 45 commercial structures and 187 structures of other types -- 24 homes, 4 commercial structures, and 17 structures of other types have been damaged.

Butte County Superintendent Mary Sakuma confirmed that Berry Creek Elementary School was lost in the fire along with the former site of Feather Falls Elementary School.

Incident Commander Dave Russell said firefighters were aggressive in their efforts against the fire on Monday and, with smoke clearing, they brought in aircraft to help battle the flames. 

It was a day with a fair amount of success, according to Fire Behavior Analyst Jonathan Pangburn. While there is always the potential for growth, he said the fire isn't expected to see any major growth in the West Zone.

Incident Meteorologist Dan Borsum said he expects a Red Flag Warning in the area to be canceled by 8 p.m., noting that officials didn't see the critical weather conditions they expected.

WATCH: Cal Fire Monday evening update:

4:15 p.m. update:

Cal Fire will provide updates at 6 p.m. via Facebook live. The agency is expected to give information on the size and containment of the North Complex West Zone Fire. 

Fire officials will be available to answer questions, which can be asked in the comments section of the live video. 

Join us at 6:01 on Facebook Live for tonight's operations briefing/ virtual community meeting for the...

Posted by CAL FIRE/Butte County on Monday, September 14, 2020

3:30 p.m. update:

Plumas National Forest [PNF] has been able to resume air operations in fighting the North Complex Fire. 

Though a Red Flag Warning is in effect Monday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. due to strong winds, PNF says there has been increased visibility now that some of the smoke had cleared. 

The Red Flag Warning includes areas affected by the North Complex West Zone, and warns of southwest winds 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 35 mph and low humidity. This means that critical fire weather is still ongoing in the Butte and Shasta-Trinity region. 

Due to increased visibility and clearer air, we can confirm that Air Operations have resumed to assist our ground operations in battling the #NorthComplex Fire

Posted by U.S. Forest Service-Plumas National Forest on Monday, September 14, 2020

2:30 p.m. update:

Butte County has been added to the list of California counties approved for financial assistance to individuals and households as part of the Major Disaster Declaration, which President Donald Trump initially granted in August.

Due to the North Complex Fire, Butte is the ninth county to receive federal approval for individual assistance. The county joins Yolo, Solano, Lake, Napa, Sonoma, Monterey, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz in receiving wildfire relief for individuals. 

This assistance program through FEMA allows survivors to pay for things like rent, home repair, home replacement and other needs such as childcare, medical and dental expenses. Those in need of this assistance can apply here

1:30 p.m. update:

Cal Fire now has a map showing where structures are damaged in the North Complex West Zone. The map shows many structures completely destroyed in the Berry Creek an Brush Creek areas. 

A list of these structures is provided by Cal Fire’s Damage Inspection Teams. The agency says that though residents still cannot return to their homes, the Damage Inspection Teams "are working as quickly as possible to supply the needed information to those that were evacuated during the firestorm."

11:30 a.m. update:

Wildfires across Northern California have caused post offices to close in several areas. Customers are now being told to go pick up their mail in person. 

Closed Post offices

  • Big Creek Post Office, 55083 Point Road, Big Creek, CA 93605
  • Lakeshore Post Office, 62804 Huntington Lake Road, Lakeshore, CA 93634
  • Shaver Lake Post Office, 40677 Shaver Forest Road, Shaver Lake, CA 93664
  • Tollhouse Post Office, 28425 Gibbs Ranch Road, Tollhouse, CA 93667
  • Auberry Post Office, 33012 Auberry Road, Auberry, CA 93602
  • Prather Post Office, 29460 Auberry Road, Prather, CA 93651

Where to pick up your mail:

  • Madera Post Office, 201 South D. Street, Madera, CA 93638 to pick up their mail. Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. Customers must provide identification to get their mail.

Closed Post offices

  • North Fork Post Office, 33173 Road 222, North Fork, CA 93643
  • Bass Lake Post Office, 54449 Road 432, Bass Lake, CA 93604

Where to pick up your mail:

  • Customers are directed to go to Ahwahnee Post Office, 44878 Notre Dame Lane, Ahwahnee, CA 93601. Hours: 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday. Customers must provide identification to get their mail.

Closed Post offices

  • O’Neals Post Office, 47065 Road 201, O’Neals, CA 93645

Where to pick up your mail:

  • Customers are directed to go to Friant Post Office, 17275 N. Friant Road, Friant, CA 93626. Hours: 8:30 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday. Customers must provide identification to get their mail.

Closed Post offices

  • Happy Camp Post Office, 33 Davis Road, Happy Camp, CA 96039
  • Seiad Valley Post Office, 44717 Highway 96, Seiad Valley, CA 96086

Where to pick up your mail:

  • Customers are directed to go to Yreka Post Office, 401 S. Broadway Street, Yreka, CA 96097. Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. Customers must provide identification to get their mail.

Closed Post offices

  • Clipper Mills Post Office, 12225 LaPorte Road, Clipper Mills, CA 95930
  • Challenge Post Office, 18040 Oregon Hill Road, Challenge, CA 95925
  • Forbestown Post Office, 19173 New York Flat Road, Forbestown, CA 95941
  • Berry Creek Post Office, 5 Whispering Chapel Lane, Berry Creek, CA 95916
  • Brownsville Post Office, 8975 Frenchtown Ext, Brownsville, CA 95919
  • Oroville Post Office, 1735 Robinson Street, Oroville, CA 95965
  • Rackerby Post Office, 7417 LaPorte Road, Rackerby, CA 95972
  • Ophir Post Office, 2359 Myers Street, Oroville, CA 95966

Where to pick up your mail:

  • Customers are directed to go to Yuba City Post Office, 761 Plumas Street, Yuba City, CA 95991. Hours: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday; Saturday 9:30 am to 1 pm. Customers must provide identification to get their mail.

9 a.m. update:

Some mandatory evacuations in Butte County have been downgraded to evacuation warnings

Per the Butte County Sheriff's Office, the order for Forbestown Rd, from Highway 162 to Lumpkin Road and all roads north of Forbestown Road to include Lake Haven Way and Faye Mar Drive, is now an evacuation warning. 

Last night was a successful one for firefighters in the North Complex West Zone, says Cal Fire. 

During the morning update, Cal Fire said that progress was made in areas greatly affected by the fire, including Berry Creek and Strawberry Valley. 

Night Operation Chief Monty Smith said lots of dozer and hand lines were completed last night and many areas were secured. Should weather permit, Smith said that crews will be finishing up more lines in the west zone today, hoping to cut off the fire spread. 

"A lot of good work has been completed in the last few days, and we're gonna continue to strive to connect all the dots and get this mopped up as soon as possible," Smith said. 

Night Operation Chief Monty Smith gives an operational briefing on the state of the #NorthComplexWestZone in Butte County.

Posted by CAL FIRE/Butte County on Monday, September 14, 2020

Original story: 

On Sunday, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said two more people have died from wildfires, bringing the state's total death toll to 24, and the total from the North Complex Fire up to 14. 

Honea also said during a news conference that seven people still remain missing.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office also identified three more victims who died in the North Complex West Zone Fire: Khawar Bhatti, 58 of Berry Creek; Millicent Catarancuic, 77 of Berry Creek; and Josiah Williams,16 of Berry Creek.

The lightning-started fire that has been burning since Aug. 17, 2020, currently sits at 38% containment and has since burned 264,374 acres. The North Complex West Zone, formerly the Bear Fire, has burned roughly 74,400 acres and is only 20% contained.

President Donald Trump is visiting California today, where he’ll receive a briefing on wildfires and delivers remarks and participates in a ceremony recognizing the California National Guard at McCarran International Airport. Afterwards, he heads to Phoenix.

Cal Fire has released a map of damaged and destroyed structures due to the North Complex and North Complex West Zone fires

Click HERE for the latest evacuation information from the Butte County Sheriff's Office

Click HERE for the latest evacuation information from the Plumas County Sheriff's Office.

Click HERE for the latest evacuation information from the Yuba County Sheriff's Office

National Interagency Fire Center live map of the fire's location (it might take a few seconds for the fires to show up on the map): 

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the area on Monday through Monday night. Incident Meteorologist Dan Borsum said strong southerly winds and low humidity Monday will result in elevated fire weather conditions across the region. He said conditions may improve a little bit Tuesday but not a lot.

Borsum added that the air quality in the region may not improve until October.

Multiple roads in areas surrounding the fires are still closed


Change in western US weather to bring wildfire and smoke relief for some, high fire danger for others

Where are fires burning in California?

How to check the air quality where you live

Watch more:

Family loses home in North Complex fire after losing home in Camp Fire

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