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Edwin Donaldson
Edwin Donaldson

Thompson Fire rages in Northern California, forcing evacuations

Thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate their homes because of a wildfire in Northern California, officials said Wednesday.

The Thompson Fire broke out Tuesday morning in Oroville, about 65 miles north of Sacramento. By Wednesday night, it had grown to 3,568 acres with 7% containment, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. The cause is under investigation.

Officials had said 28,000 people were ordered to evacuate. By Wednesday night, some of those orders were reduced to warnings in several zones, and residents in those areas were told they could return home, according to the Butte County Sheriff's Office.

Rachael Thompson, 41, an Oroville resident who lives right outside the lines of evacuation, posted videos on Facebook showing the flames engulfing nearby land.

"We have four air purifiers running," Thompson told NBC News on Wednesday. "It's still extremely smoky but nothing like last night. It was suffocating."

The flames have destroyed at least four structures and threatened 12,000 others and are affecting numerous power lines, Butte County fire spokesperson Rick Carhart said. Almost 1,500 personnel have been deployed to fight the fire.

There have been eight confirmed injuries to civilians or fire personnel, according to Cal Fire.

Oroville is no stranger to devastating fires, including the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and displaced roughly 50,000 others.

The 2020 Bear Fire took the home of Thompson's neighbors.

"We've been through it so much that it's just kind of second nature. Now we already know what we need to do and to stay vigilant," Thompson said.

Using a scanner app on her phone, Thompson listened to law enforcement officials as they decided to evacuate the area where her twin sister, Crystal Kehle, lived. So Kehle was able to pack up and leave for her sister's home, alongside her husband and her father-in-law, by the time an official evacuation order was released. Butte County has also set up two evacuation shelters.

“California is using every available tool to tackle this fire & will continue to support impacted communities,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in declaring a state of emergency for Butte County.

In a statement Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it approved federal funds Tuesday night to assist California in suppressing the fire.


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