Firefighters gain ground on North Complex Fire; nearly 500 structures destroyed, 2 remain missing


Cal Fire map of North Complex Fire, Sept. 15, 2020

The North Complex Fire continues to blaze throughout Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties, engulfing over 273,000 acres at 34% containment. 

News items from Tuesday’s community briefing included: 

  • More than 2.8 million acres have burned throughout California since Aug. 15, up from Monday’s estimate of 2.2 million acres
  • A call center will open tomorrow and provide fire updates to individuals without internet access. The phone number is 530-552-3010
  • Butte County responded to 185 welfare calls; 168 people have been located, 2 remain missing, and no new human remains have been discovered
  • A firefighter is recovering after having an anaphylactic reaction while working in the Big Bend area; he was flown by helicopter to meet medical staff 
  • 25 major complexes or fires are burning in California with 33 new fires starting since Monday
  • 489 single-residence structures have been destroyed 
  • The Butte County West Zone of the fire has burned over 77,000 acres with 29% containment 

Dan Borsum, an incident meteorologist, predicts that tame weather conditions will continue with a cold front moving into the region on Thursday. 

“There is still work to be done up here but they’re putting in a good effort and the fire is not moving,” said Ron Bravo, deputy operations section chief for Cal Fire Team 4. “We are very confident that we’re going to be able to have our lines in place and not have to worry about Paradise or Concow anywhere within the next seven days.” 

Cooler temperatures, higher humidity and other favorable weather conditions are expected to aid firefighters’ efforts. 

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea reported that eight additional arrests have been made since Monday. Six individuals were arrested after an evacuated homeowner contacted police. 

Honea also confirmed that a call center for fire updates would be rolled out Wednesday around 1 p.m. for individuals without internet access. The call center will be staffed by members from the Community Emergency Response Team, otherwise known as CERT. The assistance program was also used following the Camp Fire in 2018.

“They can ask questions about what is on the maps, whether their particular residence is in an evacuation warning or evacuation order,” Honea said.

As firefighters work to contain the historic and deadly North Complex Fire, some hope that future fire seasons will not affect the region so drastically. But winter rains could complete things. 

“We have been able to utilize many of the previous fire scars on this fire with reduced fire behavior,” said Jonathon Pangburn, a fire behavior analyst. “We have seen that in some areas, in a grassy area, the reduction in future fire threat is pretty much nothing because it is just going to grow back again the next year. In brush areas, it might give you a couple of years of reduced fire behavior because you don’t have the dead component in the brush stand like it used to have, and it takes quite a few years — sometimes 5, 10, or more years to get that same level of fire behavior.”

Additional fire updates, information on road closures, evacuation orders and warnings can be found at

Chloe Curtis can be reached at or @ChloeCurtis__ on Twitter.