10 dead in North Complex Fire; over 60,000 acres burned and 0% containment for West Zone


Kimberly Morales

Campus on Sept. 9 during the North Complex Fire

The North Complex Fire continues to burn throughout Plumas, Yuba and Butte counties as firefighters and other personnel work around the clock to gain traction on the historic fire. 

“It’s sad,” said Butte County Sheriff’s Office Captain Derek Bell. “That’s about as clear as I can put it. Just like the Camp Fire, fire does very devastating things to areas.”

News items from the press conference included: 

  • 7 new deaths were confirmed for a total of 10 
  • Butte County responded to 124 welfare calls; 98 have been located, 10 are deceased, and 16 are unaccounted for
  • The Butte County fire perimeter has burned over 62,200 acres with 0% containment
  • 23 agencies and 300 personnel are still providing assistance to Butte County
  • Within the fire perimeter there have been 4,200 structures threatened and 2,000 structures burned or destroyed
  • Cal Fire and Butte County have not requested federal funding for additional resources
Butte County Sheriff’s Office Captain Derek Bell reports from Silver Dollar Fairgrounds about the North Complex Fire

At least 29 major fires continue to burn throughout California, burning over 2.6 million acres already. Over 2,200 fire engines, 250 fire crews and 14,000 firefighters are working and battling fires in California. 

Bell confirmed that the remains of 7 people were discovered and that a team of anthropologists from Chico State will assist detectives in the search of areas affected by the fire for human remains.

“The fire made a historic run through the crowns of Timber,” said Operations Section Chief of Cal Fire Incident Management Team 4, Shane Lauderdale. “This is a fire that is impossible to fight directly and as it moved through those communities, it made a run like we have described it as historic.” 

Lauderdale detailed that the fire has crossed Big Bend to include the communities of Berry Creek, Kelly Ridge and Feather Falls. Lauderdale added that the fire has moved from the Berry Creek Area toward Bloomer Hill but has not crossed Kelly Ridge. Alongside Feather Falls, personnel are working to build a fire line. 

“The smoke will continue to be dominant across the region, the winds will remain light,” Incident Meteorologist Dan Borsum said.“The one thing about the smoke is it does cause impacts on the aircraft that might be operating over the fire.”

The red hue that painted the sky yesterday has disappeared in many areas and been replaced with a blanket of smoke and ash. The smoke aided firefighters and caused cooler temperatures, but made it impossible to fly aircraft today. Weather conditions similar to today are expected to last throughout the week. 

Officials could only confirm the 2,000 damaged structures reported yesterday, but assessment teams will be visiting land affected by the fires for a new estimate starting tomorrow morning. Firefighters will continue to work throughout the night. 

Evacuations in Plumas, Yuba, Lassen and Butte counties (Not a comprehensive list)

Evacuation orders have been issued for the following locations:

  • Cherokee Road at Highway 70
  • South to Thompson Flat Cemetery Road and all areas east to Lake Oroville 
  • The communities of Kelly Ridge and Copley Acres 
  • The area east of Miners Ranch Road at Highway 162 and Oro Bangor Highway 
  • Bangor and part of the Mount Ida area 

Evacuation warnings, which are not mandatory, have been issued for the following locations:

  • Butte County: North side of Highway 70 in the area of Lower Concow
  • Butte County: Town of Paradise, specifically Paradise Zone 14, east of Pentz Road
  • Butte County: Highway 70 at Garden Drive, south to Lower Honcut Road, Lower Honcut Road east to Bangor and everything east to the borders of the current evacuation orders
  • Butte County: Foothill Boulevard to Oakvale Avenue

Matthew Wreden, Chloe Curtis and Kimberly Morales can be reached at [email protected] or @bymattwreden, @ChloeCurtis__ and @kimberlymnews on Twitter