BERRY CREEK (CBS SF) — Dramatic drone images of the path of total destruction left behind by a wall of flames from the North Complex West fire that roared through several Butte County mountain communities including Berry Creek have been posted on the web.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Department has enlisted the help of the drone unit of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department to begin visually mapping of the totality of the devastation. The drone missions began on Sept. 15th and were continuing this weekend.
On Saturday, those images — including before and after photos — could be found on the web and more will be added every day.
You can find the images at:
- 360 Panoramas on a map: https://arcg.is/1fS5Tz1
- Before and after map of Berry Creek area: https://arcg.is/0Hm0HT
- Video maps of major roads: https://bit.ly/2REv3mh
The fire took a heavy toll on Berry Creek with 12 of the 15 bodies being recovered found there. Of those 15 bodies, 14 have been identified. They are:
- Randy Harrell, 67
- Jacob Albright, 67
- Larry Holder, 51
- Suzan Zurz, 76
- Philip Rubel, 68
- Millicent Catarancuic, 77
- Mark Delagardie, 61
- Kin Lee, 64
- Paul Winer, 68
- John Butler, 79
- Sandra Butler, 75
- Jorge Hernandez-Juarez, 24
- Khawar Bhatti, 58
- Josiah Williams, 16
A 15th set of remains is yet to be positively identified.
While authorities have release sparse information surrounding the recovery of the bodies, a survivor says she and her boyfriend could have been among the victims had they not taken quick action when they encountered a traffic jam on a narrow bridge leading out of Berry Creek.
Misty Spires and her boyfriend, Jonathan Gonzales, had spent time the night of Sept. 8th trying to save their home and other structures in Berry Creek with a fire hose from the volunteer fire department hooked up to a hydrant.
But by 4 a.m. on Sept 9th, they decided it was time to go. Propane tanks began exploding and they were dodging embers “as big as my feet,” Spires told the Associated Press.
They didn’t get far before they ran into a jammed two-lane bridge leading out of town.
“It was like a war zone, like standing in the breath of hell,” Spires said.
Sensing that they needed to do something quickly, Spires and her boyfriend guided others to a muddy sandbar north of Lake Oroville. Gonzalez knew the area was clear of trees and close to the water and told the drivers caught in the jam getting out of Berry Creek to follow him.
“He told the others, ‘If you want to live instead of sitting on this bridge follow me,’” she said. “He saved a lot of lives.”
Once there, Spires said most people stayed huddled in their cars. But others got out and consoled each other.
“There wasn’t much that you can say in that situation but to say, ‘I’m glad you’re alive,’” Spires said.
Meanwhile on Saturday, those who lost their homes in Berry Creek were still coming to grips with an overwhelming sense of loss. Among them were Julia Champine and Dany Greener.
“Oh it’s gone,” she said of the couple’s home. “It’s just rubble.. our whole neighborhood is flattened.”
Greener added: “It’s just kind of sad that all of it’s gone.. it’s hard to accept.”