An out-of-control northern California wildfire has resulted in the evacuation of thousands of Lake County residents, including an area hospital, as it tore through the downtown area of Lower Lake, located about 100 miles north of San Francisco.
The fast-moving wildfire doubled in size as it reached Main Street in Lower Lake and burned the post office, a winery, a Habitat for Humanity office and several other businesses, according to the Associated Press.
“This fire is going to have a very long-term, devastating impact on this community.” – Marin County Sheriff’s Spokesman Doug Pittman
“You can’t imagine what took place,” Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said. “There was extreme fire behavior and winds that pushed it across the road into structure after structure after structure. We had airplanes dropping retardant, helicopters dropping thousands of gallons of water — trying to get ahead of this.”
All this in a community which is still reeling from the devastating effects of three wildfires last year that consumed about 160,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,300 homes, and left four people dead. The Clayton Fire is being fueled by the dry brush and trees left behind by last year’s fires. Ironically, the Habitat for Humanity office was working to raise money to help rebuild homes destroyed by last year’s fires.
“This fire (the Clayton Fire) is going to have a very long-term, devastating impact on this community,” said Lt. Doug Pittman, a Marin County sheriff’s spokesman working on behalf of the Cal Fire. He also said that residents fled their homes very quickly once the evacuation order was issued. “They’ve seen it before,” Pittman told the San Francisco Chronicle.
For these residents, fleeing menacing fires has become an unwelcome routine. The director of the local Highlands Senior Services Center said she’s converted the building into an evacuation center six times in the past year. Twenty-five-year resident Marty Gifford said, “I don’t remember this many fires. Something is going on.”
His 84-year-old mother concurred. “I’m absolutely concerned, but there’s not much I can do about it,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like we’re in the latter days.”
“Emotions are still incredibly raw from the Valley Fire,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire about one of last year’s wildfires. “I don’t think any of us thought we’d be back where we are tonight,” he said.