Feds urge California wildfire victims to register for help

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Common theme in fire deaths: hesitance to evacuate.

SAN ANDREAS, Calif. (AP) — Federal authorities vowed Friday to help residents recover from one of the most destructive wildfires in memory in California, and fire officials called again for improved evacuation planning in preparation for the next fires. Satellite images taken by NASA show the staggering devastation left by the Valley Fire that killed at least four people as it leveled hundreds of homes earlier this month. Officials from the Small Business Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency appeared at a news conference in San Andreas, urging residents of Calaveras County to register for help with temporary housing as they clear debris and rebuild. “When your home burns up, all your memories are gone,” said Timothy Scranton, a federal coordinating officer assigned to the wildfire. “So we want to be here.” The fire, along with another massive blaze in Lake County north of San Francisco, prompted President Barack Obama to declare major disasters in California. The images from space were taken by infrared cameras on NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite as it passed over Lake County on Monday and capture the magnitude of the 76,067-acre fire.

The town of Middletown is surrounded by acres of scorched land, the images show. “So when a weather system delivered abnormally hot temperatures and gusty winds to Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties in northern California, the forests were primed to burn intensely,” NASA said. On Wednesday, as authorities revealed they had found a fourth body amid the ruins of a blaze that was described as a fast-moving tornado, they also made clear that at least three of the deaths shared a tragic common element — victims who, for one reason or another, declined to take off immediately when first warned by police, neighbors or loved ones. “It appears they didn’t leave once they received notice to evacuate,” said Lt.

As the death toll rises in California’s destructive wildfires, firefighters are moving closer to fully containing raging flames that have consumed thousands of homes. Steve Brooks with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “When they say evacuate, it’s time to go.” It’s not an unusual story in California wildfires. Residents stay because they don’t think the flames will reach them, or because they want to save pets and livestock, or because they want to protect their homes. The Valley and Butte fires, about 100 miles from San Francisco, will cost “in the tens of millions, if not in the hundreds of millions”, Brad Alexander, spokesman for the state’s Office of Emergency Services, told AFP.

The sheriff’s department declined to release the cause of death or other details on how the fire started Saturday, saying an investigation continues. It charred 118 square miles and was 90 percent contained. “We’ve got to focus as communities on evacuation planning and heeding evacuation orders,” said Ken Pimlott, director and chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire. “These fires are spreading at critical rates.” The area was ravaged by the fire, which as of Wednesday was 80 percent contained after destroying 1,325 homes and businesses and blackening 76,000 acres. Searchers have found yet another body in the aftermath of a wildfire that has burned more than 118 sqaure miles and destroyed almost 2,000 buildings in California, according to officials.

Rob Brown, another Lake County supervisor, said they are trying to match homeless residents with semi-permanent housing, either through empty vacation homes or rooms at the long-shuttered Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa in Kelseyville, California. California is in its fourth year of a momentous drought, which allows for flames to spread quickly due to the incredibly dry conditions, officials say. More than two weeks after the blaze started, Cal Fire announced on Thursday that all evacuation orders had finally been lifted and that the fire was nearly 90% contained. Although firefighters have begun to gain an upper hand on several fires, warm temperatures this week could increase the danger again. “Even though fall officially started yesterday, the risk of wildfires has not ended,” Cal Fire said. “In fact, historically California experiences its largest and most damaging wildfires during the fall months.” Sheriff’s deputies said Leonard Neft, 69, of Anderson Springs and Bruce Beven Burns of Hidden Valley Lake were notified of the fire either by a phone call, a visiting official or a neighbor and told to evacuate, but didn’t.

In their last conversation, a little before 8 p.m., Adela Neft could tell her husband was growing frightened. “He must have saw something,” she said. “I could hear he was scared in his voice.

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