The American Red Cross evacuation center at the VFW Hall in Colusa remained all but empty on Sunday night, when the three volunteers at the front desk outnumbered the evacuees staying there by one. Only one of the evacuees there was from the Stonyford area. The other was from Lake County. In Maxwell, where local residents came together to set up their own evacuation shelter for their neighbors up the hill, just four evacuees camped out at theLittle League Fields overnight on Saturday. More folks dropped off animals and livestock before turning around and heading back home.
Many residents in the mandatory evacuation zone for the Ranch Fire are have decided to stay put.
“By and large (Stonyford residents have stayed in place),” said Colusa County Supervisor Gary Evans, who lives on Lovelady Ridge. “It’s just kind of letting it ride from now, and I’m hoping they will drop it from a mandatory (evacuation) to an advisory, maybe even at some point today (Monday).”
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Sheriff Joe Garofalo said that about half of Stonfyord residents remained at their homes. Garofalo said that the mandatory evacuations remain in effect. Whether those evacuations will remain mandatory or be downgraded to an advisory will be a day-to-day decision, he said.
For resident Frank Denney, who lives just inside the southeast boundary of the evacuation zone in Lodoga, the plan is to stick around until he absolutely has to get out.
“It’s very disruptive to live life out of the trunk of your car at someone else’s house,” said Denney, who has friends to stay with, if need be, down in the valley. “…a lot of us are up here still because the fire is a good distance away, and nobody is able to tell us when it might be here… They want us to leave, but there’s no reason to. The fire is quite a ways away. They’ve got loads of equipment up here.”
Denny also said some residents were concerned about potential break-ins should they leave their property behind to evacuate. Garofalo said that he the Sheriff’s Office had not received any reports of property crime, and added there were additional resources assigned to the mandatory evacuation area to address any potential issues.
“We have two full time units up there currently, two units, 24 hours a day,” Garofalo said.
Cristy Edwards, who lives just outside of the evacuation zone in Leesville, said that a number of Bear Valley residents also ignored the evacuation order, instead staying behind to protect their own property – using their own equipment to build dozer lines. Edwards credited their efforts with making up the limited firefighting resources that were available for that area early on. Like Denney, Edwards said that she felt there had been poor communication between residents, local, state, and federal authorities – from evacuation and sheltering to the availability of firefighting resources. That uncertainty prompted people in the area, including her husband, to stay behind and take the protection of their property into their own hands.
“This really needs to be examined for some flaws, and there needs to be some evaluation of the protocols. There needs to be an evacuation protocol,” Edwards said. “More discussion needs to come in where you have a list of locals that have equipment. There should be coordination with Cal Fire and the local Office of Emergency Services. Let people know that they don’t have resources, and that need locals to come forward.”