Over 1,200 homes destroyed in North Complex Fire; fire weather watch in effect this weekend


The North Complex Fire is nearing containment at 78% after over 301,700 acres have burned since the fire erupted earlier this month. 

News items from the community briefing included: 

  • Over 1,200 single-residence structures have been destroyed 
  • The grand total of destroyed structures in the fire is over 1,900
  • An emergency ordinance was adopted, to prohibit residents from removing ash and debri from their home
  • 18,200 firefighters are working to contain fires throughout the state 
  • 26 major fires or complexes are burning in California with 22 new fires starting since Tuesday 
  • The West Zone of the North Complex Fire has burned over 83,600 acres with 66% containment 
  • No new arrests have been made
  • Butte County has responded to 192 welfare calls; 177 people have been accounted for and 15 are confirmed dead
  • Animal owners can check this website to see if their animal has been found and placed in a shelter
  • Fire survivors in need of basic items such as food, clothing, hygiene products and  diapers can visit the Hope Center located at 1950 Kitrick Ave. in Oroville,open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Weather conditions have remained favorable for fire fighting, according to Kari Fleegel, an incident meteorologist for the National Weather Service. However, firefighters and other personnel are preparing for harsher weather going into the weekend.

“A ridge of high pressure will then follow for Saturday through next week,” Fleegel said. “This will result in the return of above average temperatures, helping to create gusty winds.” 

A fire watch warning will be in effect for the North Complex zone area from Saturday at 11 a.m. until Monday at 8 a.m. Low afternoon humidity, hot weather conditions, and strong winds are anticipated. Saturday night is expected to have the strongest winds, with gusts reaching around 25 mph and up to 30 mph.

A local assistance shelter opened on Tuesday for fire survivors to help them replace important documents and connect with social services, nonprofits and other county departments. 

Over 1,500 individuals are being sheltered in non-congregate shelters due to COVID-19 risks. Evacuees are staying in hotels within the county and as far as Sacramento and Roseville. 

The county has also seen an increase in the number of unclaimed animals according to Shelby Boston, director of the Department of Employment and Social Services and Care and Shelter Chief. 

A website has been created to feature images of the animals currently being sheltered for owners’ names that are unknown. If an owner recognizes their animal on the website, they can email [email protected] or call 530-895-0000.

“If you know that we have your animal and you know that you cannot come to retrieve it at all, the sooner you can let us know, we would appreciate it,” Boston said. “It’s really better for the health and well-being of your animal  to know that we need to start working with you to find an alternative solution for the long haul.”

Officials also reiterated that residents should not return to their properties because of hazardous materials. 

Today, the board of supervisors adopted an emergency ordinance prohibiting residents from removing debris and ash of qualifying structures from their properties. The ordinance is effective immediately. 

“This urgency ordinance was put in place due to the potential widespread toxic exposures and threats to public health and the environment caused by the fire,” said Dr. Bob Bernstein, County Health Officer. 

Exposure to hazardous materials can cause acute and chronic health problems including liver damage, brain and nervous system damage, cancer, birth defects and reproductive health effects. 

Depending on fire containment, the process of removing hazardous materials from damaged and destroyed properties is expected to begin within two weeks. 

Although weather conditions have been favorable and strides have been made toward containing the fire, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea urged residents to remain patient in returning to their homes. 

Utility workers are still working in many of the areas to remove hazardous trees and clear the roadways. 

“We’re a part of this community too and we want you to be back in your homes,” Honea said. “We want this to happen as soon as possible, but ultimately we have to do it in a way that ensures the safety of all the people involved. Not just the residents but the people who are working up there.” 

In the meantime, the law enforcement escort program opened on Monday and escorts began to take place on Tuesday. Since Monday evening, over 550 requests have been submitted for the service and 25 requests were fulfilled today. 

Chloe Curtis can be reached at [email protected] or @ChloeCurtis__ on Twitter.