LAKEPORT (CBS SF) — Jarrett Williams was a Red Cross volunteer for two Gulf Coast hurricanes. Now with flames bearing down on his Lakeport area home, he says it feels strange to be on the receiving end.
“It’s weird, being told to evacuate after helping people evacuate,” he told KPIX 5 as he leads against his truck at an evacuation area. “But I know enough to listen…I thought about being nervous about the home, but you can’t replace life, you can replace stuff.”
Evacuee Michelle Mata also had an uneasy feeling as she glance toward the large smoke cloud announcing the fire’s approach.
“We had 5 police cars yesterday saying mandatory evacuations, get out,” she said.
But still some of her neighbors chose to stay behind.
“Leaving some of our people behind that wouldn’t leave their property was hard,” she told KPIX 5. “They’re in like their 80s.”
All fellow evacuee Marlyna Martin could do early Monday was hope and pray that a massive firestorm approaching her North Lakeport neighborhood will spare her family home.
Martin and her family are among the 7500 residents of Lakeport and the surrounding area driven from their homes over the weekend by the advancing flames and destruction of the Mendocino Complex Fire.
After receiving the mandatory evacuation call, they loaded up all their vehicles, including their giant RV they call a land yacht, and headed to Kelseyville.
“It’s horrible,” she told KPIX 5. “My daughter lost her home in the Valley Fire almost three years ago. So it (the latest evacuation order) is pretty traumatic.”
On Highway 175 just west of town, firefighters have dug firebreak lines with heavy equipment in the hopes of slowing the raging wildfire.
The Mendocino Complex Fire is actually two blazes — the River and Ranch fires — and in both Lake and Mendocino counties. Both started on Friday. The River Fire six miles north of Hopland and the Ranch Fire eight miles northeast of Ukiah.
Together, they have destroyed at least six homes, were threatening more than 10,000 structures, forced the evacuation of a hospital in Lakeport and charred almost 56,000 acres of mostly scrub and wildlands.
Mendocino County Undersheriff Matthew Kendall said about 1,000 residents had been ordered from their homes in his county. Meanwhile, in Lake County residents of Lakeport, population 5,000, were ordered to leave Sunday night. Two other towns with about 5,000 people were also under mandatory evacuation.
As of Monday morning, the complex fire was just 10 percent contained. Crews worked throughout the night to reinforce containment lines, but the fire behavior’s remained extreme, fire officials said.
Weather remained a factor as firefighters were being challenged by hot, dry and windy conditions. Fire officials also said fire crews were spread thin because of other major fires throughout the region.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has accepted 286 inmates who had to be evacuated from Lake County, according to authorities.
Sheriff’s officials said their deputies and deputies from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office “worked throughout the night to safely transfer the inmates to our Santa Rita Jail” in Dublin.
“This was a seamless transfer and the inmates are safe at our jail,” sheriff’s officials said. “We will continue to do our part to support California communities suffering from devastating wildfires.”
Sheriff’s officials said, “As we have seen, Lake County and other northern counties have been devastated and are hurting. It is our job to help them during this tragic time.”
Sheriff’s officials commended Lake County sheriff’s deputies “who continued to work despite their own homes and families being threatened.”
Many residents remained in Lakeport on Sunday evening including Shellie Green, who was using a garden hose to water down her yard and house.
“Got grandma out, got my mom and dad out,’ she told KPIX 5. “I think we are going to be all right. I don’t think it’s going to come down to the lake. We’re packed and ready (if they have to flee).”