Updated Sept. 19, 1:21 p.m.
The Mosquito Fire, which was sparked on Sept. 6 in Placer and El Dorado counties is 39% contained and has burned over 76,000 acres as of Monday.
Fire officials issued evacuation orders and warnings for areas in both counties, temporarily displacing nearly 11,000 people during peak fire activity — many who have now been waiting out the blaze for over a week without a definitive time they’ll be able to return.
However, repopulation has started. On Sunday afternoon, over 3,700 people were cleared to return to their homes. In a Sunday evening briefing, officials said they’re optimistic about containment efforts.
Still, with thousands of people forced to evacuate due to the fire, uncertainty remains about what comes next and what services are available at evacuation centers. CapRadio asked evacuees what answers they’re looking for, and these were some of the most common questions:
1. When can we go back home after evacuating? Who should we look to for that information?
On Sunday afternoon, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook page that several evacuation zones can now be repopulated.
Residents can enter their address into the live evacuation map to see whether they can return home. Placer County has more information about safely returning home after a fire.
On Sunday, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office also announced it was downgrading several evacuation orders, both mandatory and voluntary.
The areas around Cannon Creek, Bottle Hill and Grey Eagle were moved from an evacuation order to an evacuation warning. Voluntary evacuation alerts were lifted for the areas near Cool, Garden Valley, Swansboro and Georgetown proper.
On Friday, the department downgraded evacuation orders to warnings in the Georgetown area.
El Dorado County residents can check the county’s live evacuation map for updates on repopulation in their communities.
Information about when to return will be sent out through “predominantly social media”, Scott McLean of CalFIRE said.
“Websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, either associated with CalFIRE, the forest service or the law enforcement agencies,” he said. “We’ll also do news releases.”
Related social media pages include:
McLean pointed to the Mosquito Fire’s flare-up earlier this week as an example of “how volatile the conditions still are.”
“There’s meetings every day at base camp with utilities, fire, law enforcement and others involved to update the group on if their particular subject has been taken care of, whether it be the propane company checking every tank and every line to the houses or PG&E checking if they’re ready to electrify,” he said.
At Sierra College, one of the three active Mosquito Fire evacuation centers, 60-year-old Derek Jones says someone from Cal Fire has been coming out to the evacuation center every few days to walk people through the most recent updates on the fire.
In both the parking lot and college cafeteria, which currently house survivors, there are maps of the fire damage and print-outs of the latest CalFIRE incident reports.
2. How do I know if my home, business, etc. was destroyed?
Cal Fire says a damage inspection specialist is assessing El Dorado and Placer Counties for the destruction.
If your house, business or other property is in Placer County, you can either zoom into your property or type in your address in this interactive website’s search field. The county is no longer asking residents to call the Office of Emergency Services to inquire about their property.
If your house, business or other property is in El Dorado County, you can either zoom into your property or type in your address in this interactive website’s search field.
As of Sep. 19, the agency has confirmed there are 13 structures damaged and 78 destroyed. These reports are preliminary and are expected to change as damage inspections continue.
3. What services does an evacuation center offer? Are there laundromats/laundry service offered?
The evacuation centers are currently providing shelter, parking, showers, restrooms, food and water. If you’re a fire survivor but are staying with a relative and are not at an evacuation center, you may still be able to get support with food and water through the centers, which are run by the Red Cross.
For more information on that and other disaster relief, you can contact the Red Cross Gold Country Region chapter at 916-993-7070.
Sierra College, which serves as an evacuation center for Placer County residents, currently has a portable laundromat set up in Parking Lot B. That parking lot also has portable restrooms.
4. How are evacuation centers and their services made accessible for disabled and elderly people?
The Red Cross says volunteers at the centers will make every effort to accommodate any expressed needs, which can include “requests for equipment, supplies, food or cultural or religious requirements.”
The current fixtures in the Sierra College parking lot reflect some possible accommodations addressing mobility. Jones, who says survivors who have settled in Sierra College’s parking lot have deemed him “mayor of their little community,” added that “a lot of the folks are elders and disabled.”
“They brought us a handicapped shower trailer that I requested,” he said.
The portable restrooms are also in the parking lot thanks to Jones conveying the requests of others in the lot, since “a lot of folks couldn’t make it from here up there to the restroom.”
The parking lot is where many with pets, including Jones and his two dogs, are staying in their cars or trailers. However, there’s a steep incline from the lot to the main evacuation center, which is in the college’s cafeteria.
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