Butte County Board of Supervisors ratifies emergency declaration for Thompson Fire – Chico Enterprise-Record
Butte County Board of Supervisors ratifies emergency declaration for Thompson Fire – Chico Enterprise-Record

A helicopter drops water on the Thompson Fire near Oroville, Calif., on Tuesday, July 2, 2024. (Jake Hutchison/Mercury-Register)

OROVILLE – A fire northeast of Oroville quickly grew out of control on the morning of July 2, prompting Butte County Chief Administrative Officer Andy Pickett to sign an emergency order while firefighters and police officers from outside the region rushed to town to help defend against the blaze.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors officially ratified the Thompson Fire emergency declaration in a special meeting Monday morning, keeping it on the books for at least another 30 days.

During the special meeting, Butte County Fire Chief Garrett Sjolund gave a detailed overview of the fire and the complications that geography and weather brought to firefighting.

“It was a very stubborn fire,” said Sjolund. “The fire site was somewhat protected from the northerly winds coming off Table Mountain, but as the fire began to climb up Table Mountain, so to speak, the winds were able to catch it and presented us with major challenges in fighting it. As the day went on, the winds created further challenges for our firefighters, personnel and equipment.”

Sjolund noted that the fire quickly spread to the Kelly Ridge community, which stretches roughly east of the city of Oroville to Lake Oroville. Much of the area is uphill from the city and outside the city limits. Cal Fire-Butte County deployed the majority of its forces to the fire, while three units remained dispersed in other parts of the county in case of other emergencies until the state’s Cal Fire Incident Team 6 arrived with additional fire crews to assist in the firefighting effort.

“To give you an idea of ​​the magnitude of the incident that must have occurred on Thursday, we had a total of 2,219 personnel, 242 fire engines, 34 hand crews, 47 bulldozers and 13 helicopters,” Sjolund recalled. “We had a number of injuries, most of them heat-related, and unfortunately a Cal Fire fire engine from Healdsburg was en route to the incident and overturned in Butte County. The three people on board were not injured, but the vehicle was destroyed.”

Supervisor Bill Connelly, whose district includes both Oroville and Kelly Ridge, praised the work of the firefighters.

“It was probably, and I hate to say this, the least devastating fire of its magnitude,” Connelly said. “And that’s thanks to their efforts.”

In conclusion, Sjolund said the cause of the Thompson fire remains under investigation.

Matt Calkins, deputy sheriff of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, explained the police component of firefighting and disaster response, as well as the activation of Law Enforcement Mutual Aid (LEMA), which allowed the Sheriff’s Office to receive outside assistance from other agencies.

Calkins said the intervention of outside law enforcement has allowed local law enforcement to maintain their daily operations while getting people out during evacuation orders.

“When we have incidents like this, we’re not only dealing with fire, we’re dealing with crime, responding to emergency calls and managing the jail,” Calkins said. “That can put an additional strain on resources, and that’s why LEMA’s resources are so important.”

The Board unanimously approved ratification of the emergency declaration. It will remain in effect for 30 days. After that, the Board will decide whether to extend it or terminate it.

By Aurora