Ponderosa Fire grows to 3,507 acres in Butte County

Cal Fire

The Ponderosa Fire in Butte County is 10 percent contained, burning across 3,507 acres on Thursday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire has burned 10 residences and 20 outbuildings and is threatening 1,300 structures, including 500 homes, Cal Fire reported Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, firefighters battled rapid fire development, dangerous rates of spread and high temperatures, Cal Fire said. The fire continues to spread to the north in steep and rugged terrain.

Structure defense remains a priority and firefighters continue to establish containment lines, Cal Fire said.

The fire east of Oroville was initially reported at 1:16 p.m. Tuesday at Ponderosa Way and Lumpkin Road, two miles northwest of Forbestown in an area east of Lake Oroville.

Authorities said John Ballenger, 29, was arrested on suspicion of starting a campfire outside of a designated campground. It got out of control and quickly spread, Cal Fire said in a statement.

Evacuation orders were initially issued for Lumpkin Road from Forbestown Road to Station 51. On Wednesday, authorities issued an immediate evacuation order for “the entire communities of Berry Creek, Brush Creek and Mountain House.”

“The fire has been pushing north onto Middle Fork Feather River,” Butte County sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Collins said, adding that officials are worried the fire will spread into areas with more homes. “The concern is that it will jump over to the north side.”

“It’s dangerous work where they’re at,” said Capt. Joe Chavez, with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

In Butte County, residents began evacuating neighborhoods Tuesday afternoon and continued to do so Wednesday.

Though mandatory evacuation orders were imposed, many Lumpkin Road residents elected to shelter in place, Chavez said.

Five firefighters were hurt Tuesday, with three suffering from heat-related injuries and two others reporting injuries from the smoke.

An evacuation center at the Church of Nazarene in Oroville had 15 evacuees Wednesday morning, with the capacity to provide 100 beds if needed, said Lori Nichols, a volunteer with the American Red Cross from Elk Grove.

Several agencies, including the Red Cross, Butte County Sheriff’s Office, Butte County Fire Department, Cal OES and the U.S. Forest Service are working together to contain the fire and help those affected.

Besides the Oroville church shelter, an American Red Cross shelter has been set up at the Ponderosa Community Center, 17103 Ponderosa Way, in Brownsville.

A shelter for small animals is available at the old county hospital, 2279 Del Oro Road in Oroville. Large animals may be taken to the Camelot Equestrian Park, 1985 Clark Road in Oroville.

The Ponderosa Fire burned 4,016 acres and destroyed 32 homes before being 100% contained on Sept. 9, 2017.

A California State Park camera captures a time-lapse shot of the Ponderosa Fire burning near Oroville on August 29, 2017, around 3 p.m.

Ponderosa Fire evacuations

▪ An immediate evacuation order has been issued for the entire communities of Berry Creek, Brush Creek, and Mountain House. This includes Oro Quincy Highway from Foreman Creek north to Mountain House and all tributaries, including Bald Rock Road. Berry Creek residents are advised to evacuate south from Berry Creek to the Oroville area.

▪ Lumpkin Road, from Forbestown Road to Cal Fire Station 51, including the community of Feather Falls.

Firefighting totals, as of Thursday morning:

▪ Personnel: 1,176

▪ Fire engines: 139

▪ Fire crews: 34

▪ Helicopters: 3

▪ Dozers: 12

▪ Water tenders: 30

Fire information line: 530-538-7826

Cal Fire