Butte Fire Victims Frustrated After Temporary Cell Towers Removed

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CALAVERAS COUNTY --

When the Butte Fire tore through 70,000 acres in Calaveras County, hundreds of homes were destroyed and land lines went down.

At the request of the county, AT&T brought in temporary cell towers. It was a new luxury for an area struggling through widespread destruction.

"It was wonderful. We've never had cellular service here before, so it was a revolution," said fire victim Chris Sampson.

It became a necessity for Sampson after the fire destroyed everything he owned.

But just over a week ago, he and everyone else lost cell service when the towers were removed.

"I have to drive to San Andreas to get a cell phone for my business," Sampson said.

Patricia Hopkins' father lost his home in the fire, and now he's in poor health.

Hopkins said on top of the stress of recovering from the fire, she worries she'll be unable to call for help if her father has an emergency.

"This is the very first time I've been through something like this, and as I said, the pain I see in my father's face sometimes, it's just sad," Hopkins said.

AT&T says crews have fully restored service to landlines in the area, and that the company notified the county three days before removing the towers on Jan. 15.

A spokesperson tells FOX40:

"AT&T did not receive any request for us to extend our services in the region. These services are used for emergencies only, and were not meant to be a permanent part of our infrastructure in the Mountain Ranch area."

County Supervisor Cliff Edson admits he initially missed that notification from AT&T, but now he's determined to work with them on a solution,

"We've got to rebuild. That process is being developed, communication is a part of that, it's a really important part of that, and it's one of those things that we really need to work on to make it happen," Edson said.

Edson says he plans to meet with a representative from AT&T to discuss options for the future.

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