CHICO, Calif. ― Heavy rainstorms on Thursday hit the same part of Northern California scorched three weeks ago by the Camp fire, flooding roads and drenching hundreds of people living in makeshift shelters since the Nov. 8 fire destroyed their town and homes.
For the over 100 evacuees of the fire who’ve essentially been living outdoors, the rains brought illness, loss of possessions and even further discomfort. Confronted with the downpour on Thursday, around 80 evacuees camping out in a Walmart parking lot in Chico tried to stay dry and save their few possessions. They used cases of water, inflated air mattresses and soggy sleeping bags to keep their tents from blowing away.
Three volunteers from the neighboring Torres shelter went tent to tent, asking evacuees to consider moving to a nearby indoor shelter to stay dry. But many were hesitant to leave their tents. Some were still worried about cases of norovirus at the indoor shelters last week. Others feared the shelters wouldn’t allow them to bring their pets. Some evacuees struggling with substance abuse argued that drug use is not permitted in indoor shelters.
The rain made the living situation even more difficult for people struggling the most in the aftermath of the fire, Mark Kinsey, a former Paradise resident sleeping in a tent on the vacant lot, told HuffPost, while passing out donated ready-to-eat meals to his neighbors in the middle of the rainstorm. Three weeks after the fires, many of the volunteers and service providers that swarmed the area in the wake of the disaster have already left. There are no more camera crews, no more food trucks or donors handing out $50 gift cards.
Earlier on Thursday, Kinsey had found a young man passed out in a tent and put him in his truck to get warm. He and shelter volunteers called an ambulance and learned that the young man suffered from hypothermia.
Shelter volunteers were also caring for a man who had lost consciousness from hypothermia the previous night and was found lying in the mud next to some tents on Thursday afternoon.
By Thursday afternoon, authorities had issued flash flood warnings for Chico, Paradise and surrounding rural areas in Butte County, and warned of potential mudslides in the hills overlooking the towns. Residents of several areas were ordered to evacuate, including people living on Lower Skyway, the road that thousands took to evacuate the fire.
Firefighters responded to multiple reports of flooded roads in Paradise. Butte County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brad Meyer said rescue teams had evacuated several people as the storm dumped up to 1.5 inches in an hour, The Associated Press reported.