Lassen County officials issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging the Monday night situation when officials attempted to transfer Plumas County residents staying at the Lassen Community College shelter to one in Portola as the Dixie Fire prompted a rush of new Lassen evacuation orders.
“We would like to acknowledge the situation that occurred at the shelter that night and acknowledge that better preparation, planning, and communication by both Plumas and Lassen County representatives could have taken place. While making decisions in the face of an emergency is never easy, it has and will continue to be our priority to communicate and collaborate with stakeholders and those who will be affected moving forward,” read a Wednesday statement from Lassen County Health and Social Services Department. “Lassen County officials will conduct a comprehensive investigation to gather the facts of what occurred that night and act accordingly to improve our process in the future.”
“We would like to reiterate, all evacuees from the Dixie Fire are welcome at the Lassen County shelters regardless of the county you come from.”
In the statement, the Lassen County department noted the timeline of the shelters based in Lassen County due to the Dixie Fire. The first emergency shelter opened July 23 at Lassen Community College. In response to a mutual aid request by Plumas County
“Lassen County readily assisted in the evacuation and welcomed those in need into our community. We are proud of the services we have provided the residents in conjunction with long standing community partners. Since opening, the Lassen County shelter has provided safe refuge to over 200 Plumas County Evacuees,” the statement read.
On Aug. 5, Lassen County opened a second shelter at Lassen High School to accommodate the new evacuation orders issued for Plumas County. Mandatory orders were issued later that evening for Clear Creek, Westwood, and Pinetown marking the first evacuation orders for Lassen County residents.
“As the fire in areas of Plumas County calmed and moved into Lassen County, county officials worked to shift residents back to their county of origin. Unfortunately, on Friday, Aug. 13, the attempt to repopulate Plumas residents back into Chester and West Almanor failed due to increased fire activity. In response, the two counties worked for the next several days to secure additional spaces to setup shelters in their counties. In preparation of the school year starting, the shelter located at the Lassen High School was closed on Aug. 14, and residents were relocated to Lassen Community College,” the statement continued.
Then, as the Dixie Fire spurred even more Lassen County evacuations, officials worked to make more room for those evacuating.
“This week, Lassen County faced increased fire activity and evacuations as the fire moved into the Antelope Lake Area. The increased winds resulted in fire activity that could not have been predicted and at a speed that was hard to anticipate. On Aug. 16, mandatory orders were issued for parts of Janesville grade. At this point, Lassen County officials reached out to Plumas County for assistance and support to prepare for the immediate threat posed to Janesville and Susanville. Plumas County arranged for buses to come to Lassen County and assist in the transition of Plumas County residents from Lassen Community College to a shelter further away from the evacuation orders,” read the statement.
“Prior to the arrival of the buses, Lassen County staff attempted to assist in the notification of the transition of Plumas County residents to the Plumas County shelter in Portola. The fire continued to grow and the situation in Lassen County intensified as those residents boarded the buses. In the end, they were turned around when the fire crossed Highway 395,” detailed the statement from Health and Social Services.
The county department continued to stress all evacuees were welcome at the LCC shelter, regardless of county of residence.
Moreover, today, Lassen County is opening a medical center for evacuees in need of medical care. The medical center is staffed with physicians and nurses who are available to evaluate the health of evacuees in need of care and triage to additional services as needed.
As the fire spreads, evacuees who would like to move out of the path of future evacuation zones may travel to the evacuation shelter listed below. Contact the shelter and the county may assist with transportation.
Lassen Community College
478-200 CA-139, Susanville, CA Emergency Shelter Line (530) 250-9004
Washoe County Red Cross Shelter Pending
Additional resources will be made available if the need arises, including other shelter locations.
“Everyone should be prepared to evacuate. Fire behavior is unpredictable and we simply don’t know how it will progress. If you feel anxious or threatened, leaving early is always your choice. You don’t need to wait for a warning or an order. We are monitoring conditions carefully and we’re in constant communication with fire personnel and all our cooperating agencies. For information on how to prepare for an evacuation, go to www.readyforwildfire.org,” read the statement.