CHICO, Butte County (KPIX 5) — Officials are working on a plan to allow evacuees from the Camp Fire to visit their evacuated neighborhoods to see whether their homes are still standing.
Since most of the town of Paradise has been wiped out, an emergency operations center has been set up in nearby Chico, where emergency management officials from San Francisco and Sonoma Counties are trying to help evacuees.
One primary focus is the fact that tens of thousands of people are out of their homes – either burned out or evacuated – and are desperate to get back in. Officials are working on a repopulation plan for the Paradise area evacuees, which will start with a brief visit of their property to survey their homes that burned to the ground and a chance to get some closure.
Former Paradise fire chief Jim Broshears is running the EOC and says the short visits will happen within daylight hours, even for those whose homes are still standing. But it’s still a dangerous situation.
“For instance, let’s say you put people back in, they don’t have 9-1-1,” said Broshears. “They don’t have water, they don’t have power. We have to make decisions about what are safe, livable conditions before we can really let them go back in, because we don’t want to create another disaster.”
Cal Fire spokesman Dominic Polido says a lot more work also needs to be done on the infrastructure before evacuees can return.
Most of the power lines are burned and on the ground on all the thoroughfares,” said Polido. “There are trees that have fallen and broken, all of the hot spots need to be put out, the cars need to be cleared from the roadway.”
“I’d say that you’ll see the first repopulation in days,” said Broshears. “But the process will take weeks, if not longer to finish.