Mendocino Complex Evacuees Face ‘Mass Confusion,’ Dangers Finding a Place to Stay

LAKEPORT -- The Mendocino Complex, which includes both the River and Ranch fires, continues to burn in Lake County.

On Tuesday, fire officials warn they’re running low on resources. When the fires started on Friday, several other wildfires were already raging in the state.

Meanwhile, some 19,000 people have been forced out of their homes.

"I’m from Upper Lake," said Tim Farmer. "I got told to leave three days ago. I asked where to go, they said, 'Just get out of here.'"

Farmer is one of a dozen or so evacuees who has been camping out at Lucerne Harbor Park.

"I went to Nice, to the park there. Was told, 'Get out of here. We’re evacuating Nice,'" Farmer said.

He has not gone to an evacuation center because he says the three he knows of in Lake County are all full. Now he’s frustrated with the information he’s getting from fire officials.

"Yeah, mass confusion and nobody is telling us anything," Farmer said.

Lynda Westcott has also been camping out at the park, unable to go to a shelter because she doesn’t want to leave her animals.

"We’ve got three dogs and a cat right now and the other night, the first night here, there must have been 60, 70 cars in this parking lot and 40 or 50 animals," Westcott said.

But Westcott complains the pop-up campsites are having issues.

"Last night, we had a situation with a lady that wanted to drink too much alcohol and she came over to our area over there at the very end. Three times woke us up, trying to get us to drink with her," Westcott said.

She says one man even tried to steal a car.

"Was trying to get into the little red car over here while the elderly gentleman was actually sleeping in his car," Westcott said.

While Westcott applauds emergency responders, she wishes some of the police officers, who have been called in from agencies across the state, would take a second to check up on Lucerne Harbor Park.

"If they would just drive through here a few times a night it would be perfect," she said. "That’s really what we need."

Cal Fire says the Ranch Fire has burned more than 47,000 acres in the mountains north of Upper Lake in the Mendicino National Forest and it’s just 10 percent contained.

Meanwhile, the River Fire has burned 27,000 acres in the hills west of Lakeport and is only 8 percent contained.

So far, 10 structures have been lost but more than 10,000 more are being threatened.

"I think we need to name the county 'Burnt County' instead of Lake County because every year we burn," Farmer said.

Farmer feels more could have been done to prevent the fires, especially in the aftermath of 2015’s deadly Valley Fire.

"Honestly this whole thing could have been prevented by some clear cuts and some controlled burns," Farmer said. "I think it goes back to forestry management, county government, Sacramento.”

When the River and Ranch fires started burning Friday, Cal Fire says its resources were already stretched thin by several other large fires burning in the state, one reason Farmer believes the fires grew so fast.

"It’s very frustrating. I was born and raised here and I love this county. But not in the shape it’s in today," he said.

There are more people who feel they are being overlooked by emergency crews during this fire.

“Pretty much we’re helping everybody out with their animals. I got extra cat food, extra dog food.”