Deadly Carr Wildfire Testing Resources Of Local Officials In Northern California

Jul 30, 2018
Originally published on July 30, 2018 7:05 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Carr fire in northern California is one of the largest raging through the state. It is testing the resources of local officials. The blaze began about a week ago and has claimed six lives, including a firefighter. The flames have burned roughly 98,000 acres and hundreds of homes. Some 38,000 residents of Redding, Calif., have been forced to evacuate. To learn more on where things stand, we reached out to Kristen Schreder. She's the mayor of Redding. She spoke to us earlier today.

KRISTEN SCHREDER: We're a population of 90,000 in our city, which is 60 square miles. And we've lost probably - and just in the city, probably three or 400 homes. All the numbers haven't come in yet because they're still doing assessments. And then inside - our county vicinity also has lost an equal number of homes or more in the more rural areas.

CORNISH: And I understand, as we mentioned, thousands of residents have been evacuated. Has everyone been accounted for?

SCHREDER: Well, we evacuated - it's estimated to be about 38,000 people, which you can imagine, given that number, that's pretty significant. And there are some people staying in shelters, and then many people like myself. I'm currently evacuated from my home, and I'm staying with family.

CORNISH: What guidance have you been giving to your citizens?

SCHREDER: Well, the most important thing is to understand that there's a lot to evaluate to be able to let people back into their homes. The fire isn't currently threatening our city areas. There - the fire is heading northwest towards the next county over in a more rural area. For our 30-year, 40-year firefighters, this has been the most volatile fire people have seen. So that's hard to kind of wrap your head around. So we're trying to share with people that we need to be cautious about returning to their homes. And a lot of people are anxious about that. But we have utility lines, gas lines that need to be confirmed that are safely operating. And we had a lot of wind in some neighborhoods where large trees were toppled.

CORNISH: Do you feel that the city was appropriately prepared for tackling the fire?

SCHREDER: I think it's taxed. Almost any agency, any government would - this would be the greatest impact. But we had a lot of reinforcements from Cal Fire, our state firefighting agency. We collaborate really well in our area with our outlying-area firefighting teams. So we have assistance from all over the state. I was out yesterday in our city, and I met firefighters from San Diego and every town in between.

CORNISH: You said that the fire has moved from city limits. It's moving northwest. What are the city's top priorities in the coming days in terms of getting it under control?

SCHREDER: Well, the fire is outside of our areas now, so the most important thing for our community is to repopulate the neighborhoods. And once they're repopulated into the homes that are safe to be in, then our city will be working with the homeowners to - and they'll be working with our insurance companies. But we'll be mobilizing so that we can help people have a streamlined government response to rebuilding their homes.

CORNISH: In the meantime, when you step out of your door, what do you see? I mean, what kind of condition are the homes in? What does your town look like now?

SCHREDER: The west side of our town in some places has a moonscape. Look, there are neighborhoods that have large numbers of homes that were completely destroyed. It's very devastating for me to see. I am born and raised here. And I have a lot of friends who have lost their homes. I have a family member that lost their home. But everybody's working very hard to get the infrastructure safe, and so we can get back in homes and then start the rebuilding process.

CORNISH: Mayor Schreder, thank you so much for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

SCHREDER: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.