California firefighters working to protect locals from wildfires have been met with residents brandishing guns as they try to evacuate the area.
California Incident Management operations section chief Jake Cagle discussed the shocking incidents last week during a news briefing about the huge Dixie Fire, which is burning in several northern California counties.
As the wildfire continued to spread, it advanced into the town of Greenville, which is home to about 1,000 residents, and burned an estimated 75% of homes and businesses.
The Dixie Fire, which is the second-largest in recorded California history, prompted law enforcement to issue evacuation orders, but in spite of the advancing threat some Greenville residents reportedly did not want to leave their homes and went as far as to threaten the firefighters who are working tirelessly to ensure locals avoid harm.
Speaking at the news briefing, per KPIX 5 News, Cagle said:
[Wednesday] was a very tough day for all of us. There is stuff out there that we didn’t want to see. Again, talking about the people out there dealing with evacuations. We are all challenged. Law enforcement’s challenged.
We have firefighters getting guns pulled out on them because people don’t want to evacuate. That’s just the duality. That’s what it is. Not trying to place the blame on the landowners. We understand, our hearts go out to them.
The impacts, the devastation we understand. That’s why we are here, we are trying to do the best we can. That is our sole intention. But again it comes down to life threat, and that’s what we need to manage.
Greg Hagwood, a Plumas County supervisor, reiterated the tense situations that have come about following the evacuation efforts.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, he said: ‘They are met with people who have guns and [are] saying, ‘Get off my property and you are not telling me to leave’.’
Hagwood explained that deputies were forced to ask residents who flat-out refused to evacuate for their next-of-kin information, so authorities would know who to notify if the determined locals were to succumb to the fire.
With so many people refusing to leave the area, authorities have been forced to establish temporary refuge areas for those who had to be rescued, with some firefighters having to stop tackling the flames in order to provide safe transportation.
Capt. Mitch Matlow, public information officer on the Dixie fire, noted that these situations can hinder efforts to stop the fire, saying: ‘Then the fire can advance in areas where we might have otherwise been able to stop it, and the lives of the firefighters and the residents that they are moving to protect are put at increased risk.’
The Dixie Fire ignited in the Sierra Nevada on July 13 and as of August 9 was just 22% contained.
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