MARYSVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — Dozens of inhabitants of a homeless encampment in Marysville were burned out of their shelters when a fast-moving fire engulfed an area near the banks of the Yuba River.
It was a punch in the gut for many of them.
They were in the process of getting payment checks from a successful lawsuit filed against government officials who destroyed their property when they were removed several years ago.
The fire Thursday swept through about 30 acres of the Hollywood Park area, named after a long-gone trailer park.
Gary Wilden returned Friday morning to survey what was left of the two trailers and a half-dozen vehicles belonging to him and his neighbors.
He had to abandon his efforts to save his camp.
“Cut some limbs, was trying to cut them away with a chain saw and was trying to put some water on it,” Wilden told FOX40.
Many of the makeshift shelters and trailers survived the fire, but others weren’t so lucky. Some of them lost all they had.
Jess Eileen’s tent burned up with all its contents.
“Me, I lost all the stuff from my dead dad,” Eileen said. “Like, I don’t have anything to remind me of him except for just the very few memories I have.”
Many victims said police and fire crews refused to let them retrieve trailers and other belongings as the flames approached and stood by, letting the fire burn.
“Could have got the trailer out but the fire department told me I couldn’t,” Wilden said.
Fire officials told FOX40 the maze of dirt roads hampered movement by emergency vehicles and people were kept out for their own safety.
Charitable groups arrived to distribute food and blankets. The Sutter-Yuba Homeless Consortium set up a service site and opened up space at existing shelters.
“It’s ready to go, so that’s why we’re out here trying to find some folks today. Try and see if we can get them housing and get them out of this situation that is unhealthy and dangerous for them at the same time,” said YSHC Executive Director Johnny Burke.
The irony is the area was cleaned up nearly four years ago after it was deemed a health and fire hazard. Homeless people then successfully sued government officials for destroying property without proper notice.
Raelynn Butcher was handing out modest payment checks the same day as the fire.
“Because these people have been violated and now they’ve been violated again,” said Butcher, a former Hollywood Park camper.
Fire officials say a brush-clearing burn in the area Wednesday was not a factor in the fire. They are investigating an accidental cause but could not elaborate.