State grants extension to last Camp Fire shelter in Butte County. Will it be used?

A week after Butte County and American Red Cross officials said the last remaining evacuation center for victims of the Camp Fire would close by the end of January, the state has issued a lease extension that would allow use of the space into mid-March.

Despite that extension, the shelter at the Silver Dollar Fair Ground in Chico is still targeted for Jan. 31 closure, Butte County spokeswoman Casey Hatcher said Thursday.

“The March 15 extension is really a contingency plan,” Hatcher said. “We don’t intend to be sheltering folks that are displaced by the Camp Fire until March, but we want to have a contingency plan in place.”

Hatcher said the American Red Cross and other emergency agencies have established “a pretty active case management approach” for individuals seeking homes or other shelter, and that Jan. 31 is still the date by which American Red Cross plans to help transition as many displaced residents as possible out of the Chico center.

“Everybody has a recovery plan in place,” Hatcher said.

A week earlier, county officials said more than 200 people were staying inside the fairgrounds, with another 400 or so outside in campers or RVs. Hatcher said Thursday the number for people staying inside was now fewer than 170, but did not have an estimate for those camped outside.

The Camp Fire, which ignited early November, leveled the town of Paradise, killed 86 and left thousands in Butte County without homes in the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history.

The fairgrounds site represents the last official large-scale shelter housing center remaining for victims.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.