GRIDLEY, Calif. (KTXL) — Hundreds of evacuees were waiting out the North Complex West Zone fire that continued to burn Thursday night.
Some at the Butte County Fairgrounds in Gridley had already lost their homes, while others were still holding out hope.
Michael Chill, who evacuated from Bangor, was just one of more than a hundred people who have set up camp at the fairgrounds.
“We’re doing alright. Still worried about the house, don’t know if it’s there or not,” Chill told FOX40. “You know, just don’t know.”
He said he had just enough time to pack up his RV and leave Bangor with his family, neighbors and their nine dogs.
“I come outside you can see an orange glow on all the hills,” he recalled. “The wind was blowing so hard and ashes, smoke and ashes were hitting you and the ashes were burning you.”
Chill said flames stretched at least a mile along the road as they drove away.
“We’ve been in the same place for 30 years. My dad built a house. Ain’t never had to evacuate before. We’ve had the fire come close but nothing, never had to evacuate,” he said. “This time I was scared. I was actually scared.”
He said their only hope was the cavalry of flashing lights driving toward them.
“We passed like 40 or 50 Office of Emergency Service fire trucks going up the hill one right after another, just in a line,” Chill recalled. “That made me feel better.”
More than 48 hours later, Chill was still waiting to hear if they would have a home to go back to.
In the meantime, he was trying to stay positive.
“They feed us here and I got my motorhome and it ain’t been that hot. It’s been all right,” Chill said.
Volunteers from the World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to providing free meals to evacuees in the wake of natural disasters, were dispatched to the fairgrounds to feed evacuees.
“I live in Truckee. So although I’ve gone to different disasters all over the world, this is local for me,” said chef Elsa Corrigan.
“This is close to my heart and my home,” Corrigan continued.
She and her team have already served up hundreds of meals.
She also aimed to provide a source of comfort.
“I hope they get a moment just to not be thinking about the fire and they can just focus on the food and maybe having a conversation with somebody else who’s going through the same thing,” Corrigan told FOX40.
For her, it was personal.
“Because my house is in the middle of the woods and I’m scared of a fire hitting it every day,” she said.
As for Chill, he remained optimistic his house was spared — but said he was prepared if it wasn’t.
“I’ll probably rebuild,” he said. “I can picture that tent parked right where the house used to be but, hopefully, I don’t have to do that.”
World Central Kitchen said they will be at the fairgrounds for as long as they’re needed. Click or tap here to donate to their fire relief efforts.