Sheriff addresses Dixie Fire campers and county response

By Debra Moore

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In response to comments made during this week’s Plumas County Board of Supervisors meeting, as well as opinion pieces submitted to Plumas News, Sheriff Todd Johns addressed the allegations that there are dozens of individuals camping out in the elements in the wake of the Dixie Fire because they have received no assistance.

During a conversation on the evening of Oct. 20, Johns said that he, his staff and other emergency responders have been looking for these campers and they have contacted all that have been located, though that number is not anywhere near the numbers reported. “We aren’t finding the 80 people in tents,” he said.

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Those that are located are offered services. This week the county opened a shelter at Greenville Elementary School so that people would have a dry place to stay. As of last night, no one had spent the night, though some had shown up to take a hot shower. Johns said a few of those individuals have homes that were still standing, but their wells are offline and they are awaiting repairs. Johns said if the facility isn’t utilized it will be closed and accommodations made for people to take showers.

While Johns and others can’t find the large tent encampments that some have described, he said that he knows there is a need for housing and is working closely with CalOES and FEMA. He said that he and CalOES officials are pushing FEMA as hard as they can. “We are working on housing, but FEMA has rules,” he said. Some of those rules require wraparound services to be in place, such as food, gas, medical, utilities. To that end he is working to get Nellz Towne Pump back up and operational. The site is already being cleared and Johns is hopeful that it will be open soon, even if just by cardlock initially.

“I want to remind folks that we are so far ahead in this process,” Johns said. “It took seven months after the Camp Fire before the first trailer was installed.”

Thus far FEMA has okayed a site for 14 FEMA trailers to be located on a piece of land on Wolf Creek Road for displaced residents.

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And about those road delays

During the conversation, Johns also addressed the road delays on Highways 70 and 89. While some are due to restoration work post fire, other major delays are due to pre-planned Caltrans work. (Another such operation is set to begin Oct. 25 on Highway 147.) Johns said he has talked to the CHP and Caltrans about the possibility of holding off on these projects, and a meeting is planned for Monday, Oct. 25.