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Thompson Fire now 100% contained

The Thompson fire sends a plume of smoke over Oroville, Calif., on July 2, 2024.
Ethan Swope
/
AP Photo
The Thompson fire sends a plume of smoke over Oroville, Calif., on July 2, 2024.

Update July 9 at 3 p.m.- Final article update 

The Thompson Fire in Butte County is now fully contained and remains at 3,789 acres.

Yesterday Cal Fire-Butte County Fire Chief Garrett Sjolund and Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea announced the updated containment.

"This incident was a very difficult incident for firefighters," Sjolund said. "We were compounded by the fact that it was hot, steep terrain and difficult access."

He said it was imperative that resources were available immediately when the fire started on July 2.

"Without them, we wouldn't have been able to be successful in saving the communities of Kelly Ridge and Oregon City," Sjolund said.

He said fire suppression will continue through today.

According to the final damage assessment, 34 structures were damaged or destroyed in the fire — 13 were homes.

Honea said the situation could have been much worse had it not been for the quick response of firefighters, law enforcement, and residents.

"When we issue evacuation warnings or orders, we do so because we genuinely believe that the public is at risk," Honea said. "And it only works when people heed those warnings, and when they do the things we ask them to do to make themselves safe.”

He said Butte County communities should be ready to evacuate again, as officials expect to see more dangerous fire weather conditions this summer amid dry, ignitable vegetation in the area.

"I want you to, one: know your zone, be prepared if you have to evacuate,” Honea said. “Pay attention to what we're saying, heed those warnings, and go when we ask you to go.”

About 16,000 people were evacuated from the Thompson Fire, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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Update July 8 at 10:45 a.m.

We are no longer updating this section of the article. Please refer to the latest information above.

The Thompson Fire burning in Butte County is now 98% contained at 3,789 acres. Cal Fire’s 6:55 a.m. incident report says 450 structures remain threatened by the fire, which has been burning in the Oroville area since July 2 and prompted about 16,000 residents to evacuate. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office lifted all evacuations over the weekend.

The Butte County Department of Employment and Social Services opened a resource line for fire survivors. The number is 530-552-6262 and is staffed from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

On Sunday, Cal Fire released its final damage assessment for the incident. It found 26 structures were destroyed in the fire 13 were homes and 13 others were considered other “minor” structures. The fire also damaged eight other structures, according to the agency.

As of this morning, command of the fire is being transitioned from Cal Fire’s Incident Management Team 6 to the agency's Butte Unit.

An excessive heat warning remains for the area. Afternoon humidity will drop into the teens, and winds are expected. Cal Fire says firefighters will continue to focus on strengthening containment and control lines and be ready if fire activity increases.

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Update July 5 at 5 p.m.

We are no longer updating this section of the article. Please refer to the latest information above.

Firefighters continue to strengthen the containment of the Thompson Fire burning in Butte County. According to Cal Fire, the fire has reached 46% containment and stands at 3,700 acres. Although many evacuations were lifted yesterday, approximately 4,000 structures remain threatened.

As of 10 a.m., the agency reports the fire destroyed 25 structures and damaged six.

Rick Carhart, public information officer for the Butte County Fire Department, told NSPR that the number could go up as officials continue to assess damages.

Cal Fire reports that 4,000 more homes remain threatened by the fire.

“What that means is that that's the number of homes and residences that are within the evacuation zone areas,” Carhart said.

A heatwave warning remains in effect in the area with extremely low humidity expected. Hotter and drier conditions are predicted for the rest of the day and through the weekend.

Carharts says the heat will be the biggest challenge for firefighters.

“There's not a lot of fire activity to be seen, there's not a lot of smoke in the air, there's not a lot of active flames, but there's still potential,” Carhart said.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Office reports the evacuation shelter in Gridley is closed and the shelter at the Oroville Church of the Nazarene will also close today at 5 p.m.

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Update July 4 at 12:30 p.m.

We are no longer updating this section of the article. Please refer to the latest information above.

Cal Fire is continuing to make progress on the Thompson Fire amid a triple-digit heat wave. Rick Carhart, public information officer for the Butte County Fire Department, told NSPR the number of acres burned did not change overnight. Containment of the fire remains at 7% and conditions have improved. Carhart said firefighters will continue to work on strengthening containment lines and putting out any hot spots that arise as temperatures heat up today.

Cal Fire’s latest incident report this morning reports that four structures have been destroyed. It did not clarify if those were outbuildings or homes.

Carhart said firefighters are concerned by the high temperatures forecast today compounded with Fourth of July celebrations. Officials ask that residents help prevent any new fire starts by not setting off fireworks. A temporary ban on all fireworks is in place in Oroville and city officials have asked vendors to halt sales.

Some evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings yesterday, allowing some to return to their homes.

Carhart said four small vegetation fires ignited near the Thompson Fire yesterday, but were quickly contained.

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Updated July 3 at  7:10 p.m.

We are no longer updating this section of the article. Please refer to the latest information above.

Cal Fire has made progress on the Thompson Fire burning near Oroville. As of the latest update at around 6 p.m., the fire is 7% contained and holding at around 3,500 acres. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office downgraded some evacuation orders to warnings earlier this afternoon. Residents returning to the area are encouraged to stay aware of fire conditions.

Cal Fire has not released estimates on the number of homes damaged or destroyed. The agency said that damage assessment teams were ordered to the area this morning.

Officials urge caution ahead of the Fourth of July weekend

A red flag warning for the Sacramento Valley region expires at 8 p.m. tonight. Still, officials are urging extreme caution as temperatures will still be in the triple digits with low humidity.

The city of Oroville is temporarily banning fireworks, including safe and sane ones. It is strongly encouraging all vendors to cease the sale of fireworks in the city immediately. The city said its emergency resources are stretched extremely thin due to the ongoing emergency.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told NSPR yesterday that emergency officials are extremely concerned about residents using fireworks during hot, dry conditions.

"We don't need an idiot setting a fire with fireworks while we're dealing with this," Honea said. “I would ask that people use good common sense and not create more problems for us.”

Rick Carhart, public information officer with the Butte County Fire Department, told NSPR this afternoon that the agency will not be holding a live streamed press conference about the fire.

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Updated July 3 at 12:45 p.m. 

We are no longer updating this section of the article. Please refer to the latest information above.

The Thompson Fire burning in Butte County continues to prompt evacuations in more than 40 zones in the greater Oroville area. The fire started yesterday and has grown to more than 3,500 acres as of Cal Fire’s latest update and remains uncontained. In an incident report around 11 a.m. today, Cal Fire said there are more than 1,500 people assigned to the fire and more ground and air resources are being requested. The agency activated a call center for local residents to get information by calling 211.

Officials confirm some homes have been lost

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told NSPR some homes have been destroyed, but he could not confirm how many or where they were. He said the amount of damage officials saw this morning was less than expected.

In an incident update this morning, Cal Fire said it has ordered damage assessment teams to the area.

Honea said the biggest concern today is the extreme temperatures expected in the region.

Around 13,000 residents remain under evacuation with at least 12,000 homes threatened, according to Honea.

More dry, windy conditions expected today

Rick Carhart, public information officer with the Butte County Fire Department, said weather conditions today are expected to be similar to yesterday.

“The winds are still from the north, and they're sort of shifting back and forth from northeast and northwest. And there are still possibilities of wind gusts up over 20 miles an hour,” he said.

Most of the Sacramento Valley is still under a red flag warning until 8 tonight. Temperatures are forecast to hit over 110 degrees, with dry and windy conditions.

Carhart said firefighters are hoping they’ll be able to prevent the fire from spreading further. However, the weather conditions will be challenging.

“The hope is that we've done enough work and that we continue doing the work that the fire is not really going to move all that much,” he said. “But with the wind coming from the north, it would be natural that the fire would tend to move in a southward direction.”

Rick Carhart sits inside the PIO trailer at the Thompson Fire Incident Command at Silver Dollar Fairgrounds on July 2, 2024, in Chico, Calif.
Alec Stutson
/
NSPR
Rick Carhart sits inside the PIO trailer at the Thompson Fire Incident Command at Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, Calif., on July 2, 2024.

He said last night the fire did get into the Kelly Ridge area and firefighters were focused on protecting homes there.

“We put a number of engines right into driveways and onto people's properties, just to make sure that any embers that were flying around didn't get seated and burn a house down,” Carhart said.

He said the focus today will be to continue protecting homes and to prevent the fire from spreading further into communities.

“The goal is to keep the fire from crossing highway 162. If it goes across there, there are just more people in those areas,” he said.

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Updated July 2 at 7:05 p.m. 

We are no longer updating this section of the article. Please refer to the latest information above.

The Thompson Fire burning in Butte County is prompting evacuations in more than 40 zones in the greater Oroville area. The fire started this morning and has grown to more than 2,100 acres as of this evening.

The latest Cal Fire update

In a live Facebook update at 6 p.m., Cal Fire Butte County Unit Chief Garrett Sjolund said the agency's first priority is to hold the fire at the Oroville Dam to keep it out of Kelly Ridge. He added that the fire has two heads and said the Cherokee Road area is the agency’s second priority.

“It is near the area of Red Tape Road. We're trying to hold it south of there below the Oregon City, Table Mountain Cherokee area,” he said.

Sjolund did have some better news on the agency’s progress near Table Mountain.

“The fire on the west side from Table Mountain down to Cherokee road itself towards Oroville, we do have line in there and that fire is holding. We don't anticipate growth there as we move through the night.”

He said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Sheriff Honea on evacuations

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told NSPR that more than 13,000 people in the greater Oroville area are currently under an evacuation order.

“We've been utilizing all of our communication platforms to alert the public to the situation,” Sheriff Kory Honea said, “including having law enforcement personnel go out door to door where possible and alert people.”

Honea also said there has been help from outside of his agency.

“We have law enforcement personnel from throughout Northern California coming into the area to help us patrol those areas that have been evacuated and make sure they're secure,” Honea said.

Ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, Sheriff Honea warned against firework use during a serious fire season.

"We don't need an idiot setting a fire with fireworks while we're dealing with this," Sheriff Honea said. “I would ask that people use good common sense and not create more problems for us.”

More about the volatility of the fire

Cal Fire Spokesperson Dan Collins said those in the general area of the fire should also be on alert in case evacuations are called.

“We've found that a lot of people wait until they physically see fire in the past. And that's the wrong time to evacuate,” he said. “When you see fire, you're probably going to see fire resources, and you're probably going to see other civilians trying to evacuate so it could be physically more congested on the roadway. So the earlier folks get out the better.”

The Sacramento Valley is currently under a red flag warning until 8 p.m. Wednesday, with temperatures in the triple digits.

Dakari Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said in the Lake Oroville area conditions will still be hot, dry and windy overnight.

“Right now we're looking at conditions forecasted to be around five to 10 miles per hour, gusting up to 15 to 20 miles per hour, between now and tomorrow morning. But with calmer winds expected for the rest of this week.”

Dan Collins called the current conditions on the fire “volatile” but said more resources are on the way.

“We have resources on the ground, numerous resources overhead, and more resources coming in from out of the area. So again, this is an ongoing incident,” he said. “We advise all residents to be alert, be aware and to take heed to orders and order evacuation orders.”

Follow NSPR’s “Wildfire Updates” page to stay updated on this fire. 

Evacuation Shelters:

  • Oroville Church of the Nazarene, 2238 Monte Vista Ave., Oroville
  • Gridley Fairgrounds, 199 E Hazel St, Gridley, CA 95948

Animal Shelters:

  • Large Animal Shelter – Camelot Equestrian Park, 1985 Clark Rd., Oroville
  • Small Animal Shelter – 2279 Del Oro Ave, Oroville

Where to Get Information: 

  • Butte County Sheriff’s Office evacuation zone map
  • Butte County Sheriff's Office X
  • Butte County Sheriff's Office Facebook
  • Cal Fire Butte Unit/Butte County Fire Department X
  • Cal Fire Butte Unit/Butte County Fire Department Facebook
  • Butte County website (contains information during emergencies)
Erik began his role as NSPR's Butte County government reporter in September of 2023 as part of UC Berkeley's California Local News Fellowship. He received his bachelor's degree in Journalism from Cal State LA earlier that year.
Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.
Alec Stutson grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in Radio Journalism, 20th/21st Century Literature, and a minor in Film Studies. He is a huge podcast junkie, as well as a movie nerd and musician.
Ava is NSPR’s Morning Edition anchor and reporter. They previously worked on NPR’s Weekend Edition and NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered broadcasts and produced weekly national news stories focused on contextualizing national issues for individual communities. They love NorCal and spending time outdoors.
Adia White is a broadcast journalist and producer with nearly 10 years of experience. Her work has appeared on WNYC, This American Life, Capital Public Radio and other local and national programs. She started at North State Public Radio as a freelance reporter in 2017 before leaving for a stint at Northern California Public Media in Santa Rosa.
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