From Dam Crisis to Wall Fire: Butte County Sheriff Reveals Positives, Regrets

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OROVILLE -- Sitting at his desk inside the Butte County Sheriff's Office in Oroville, Sheriff Kory Honea now has a chance to reflect on the wild and unfortunate first half of 2017.

"It's been a very interesting year to say the least," Honea told FOX40 with a slight smile.

On February 12, it was Honea's decision to evacuate his county while advising other counties down stream of the Feather River to do the same.

Ultimately 188,000 people were evacuated in fear of a spillway failure at the Oroville Dam.

Honea says the information from the Department of Water Resources regarding a possible spillway failure was almost surreal.

"At one point I looked at my lieutenant, and asked 'Did I hear that right?' It was the most tense and stressful period I have ever experienced in my career," he said.

The ultimate fears of a spillway break never occurred, and the spillway is now being repaired in hopes of avoiding a similar potential disaster down the road.

However, months later, another type of disaster did hit in the form of the Wall Fire, that burned 41 homes while torching thousands of acres in the hills of Butte County.

"It was much sooner than I had ever hoped to be in that position again, quite frankly, if I'm never in that position again I'd be happy," Honea said.

While Cal Fire led the fire fight, Honea says the spillway incident at the beginning of the year helped him and his department with the fire crisis as it happened.

"The spillway proved to us and the county that we can do this, we can handle a disaster like that, I'm a better sheriff because of it," he said.

Since the spillway incident, Butte County has developed an emergency response plan, unlike one prior.

"I wish we had that plan in place before the evacuation, but I don't think any county or entity had really developed a plan for a dam disaster," he said.

The sheriff knows his county, specifically the southern part surrounding Oroville, has been through a lot recently.

His message is a simple one to those who have gone through a lot and for some with no home to return to.

"I just want to say thank you, for rising to the occasion, overall, I couldn't be more proud to serve this county as sheriff," he said.