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Butte Fire Officials: Crews Faced Erratic Flames, Many Did Not Follow Evacuation Orders

Photo taken from an evacuation area off Clinton Road.

 

Federal and state fire agencies are taking a look back at what they learned from fighting one of California's most destructive wildfires this year.

The Butte Fire burned more than 70,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties last month. It killed three people and destroyed nearly 500 homes.

Capital Public Radio's Lesley McClurg traveled to the fire area Wednesday to see what fire managers are talking about.

"The main message that I'm hearing is that history didn't help them at all to fight this fire," says McClurg. "It acted erratically, violently, completely unpredictably. And they feel like the fires they're seeing today... the Valley Fire, the King Fire last year. They're fighting the fires behind instead of out front because they can't predict what they're going to do."

Firefighters also said they couldn't actually concentrate on fighting the fire right away. They spent the first few days saving people who had not followed evacuation orders.

"They had to spend the first 60 hours of the fire focusing on getting people out and focusing on rescues," she says. "And so they couldn't focus ... on stopping fire and quelling the flames, or getting it contained. They're really focused on 'How do you get that message out to the public that when they say get out, it really does mean get out.' That it's really important that people follow on evacuation call."