Mosquito Fire evacuations force thousands of people to seek temporary shelter. What resources are available to them?

The Mosquito Fire, which started Sept. 6 in Placer and El Dorado counties, is 20% contained and has burned nearly 70,000 acres on Friday.

Firefighters have issued evacuation orders and warnings for areas in both counties, temporarily displacing nearly 11,000 people – many of whom have now been waiting for the blaze for more than a week with no definite time they can return.

However, at a Thursday evening briefing, officials said they were optimistic about containment efforts, and Friday morning crews reported a productive Thursday evening securing the southwest side of the fire.

Yet, with thousands of people forced to evacuate due to the fire, uncertainty remains about what happens next and what services are available at evacuation centers. CapRadio asked evacuees what answers they were looking for, and here are some of the most common questions:

1. When can we return home after evacuating? Who should we turn to for this information?

Scott McLean with Cal Fire says there is no firm date or time yet.

But when that time and date is set, he says it’s likely all evacuation areas will be deemed safe at once.

Information on when the return will be sent via “primarily social media”, McLean added.

“Websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, associated with CalFIRE, Forest Service or law enforcement,” he said. “We will also do press releases.”

Related social media pages include:

McLean pointed to the Mosquito Fire outbreak earlier this week as an example of “the volatility of conditions.”

“There are meetings every day at base camp with utilities, fire, law enforcement and others involved to let the group know if their particular topic has been taken care of, whether the propane company checking every tank and every line to homes or PG&E checking if they are ready to be electrified,” he said.

At Sierra College, one of Mosquito Fire’s three active evacuation centers, Derek Jones, 60, says someone from Cal Fire visits the evacuation center every few days to guide people through the latest updates on the fire.

In the college parking lot and cafeteria, which are currently housing survivors, there are fire damage maps and printouts of the latest CalFIRE incident reports.

2. How do I know if my home, business, etc. has been destroyed ?

Cal Fire says a damage inspection specialist is assessing El Dorado and Placer counties for destruction.

If your home, business, or other property is in Placer County, you can call the Office of Emergency Services at 530-886-5390 for the latest information. The county is also asking residents of the following roads to call the number:

  • Bath path
  • Mosquito Ridge Route
  • Lower Street
  • Hawk Chicken Road

If your home, business, or other property is in El Dorado County, you can zoom to your property or enter your address into the search box on this interactive website.

As of September 16, the agency confirmed that there were 10 structures damaged and 70 destroyed. These reports are preliminary and are expected to change as damage inspections continue.

3. What services does an evacuation center offer? Are there laundromats/laundry service?

Evacuation centers currently provide shelter, parking, showers, toilets, food and water. If you are a fire survivor but are staying with a relative and are not at an evacuation center, you may still be able to get help with food and water through the centres, which are run by the Red Cross.

For more information on this and other disaster relief, you can contact the Red Cross Gold Country Region Chapter at 916-993-7070.

Sierra College, which serves as an evacuation center for Placer County residents, currently has a portable laundry facility located in Parking Lot B. This parking lot also has portable restrooms.

4. How are evacuation centers and their services made accessible to disabled and elderly people?

The Red Cross says volunteers at the centers will do their best to meet any expressed needs, which may include “requests for equipment, supplies, food or cultural or religious requirements”.

The current parking lot arrangements at Sierra College reflect some possible mobility arrangements. Jones, who says survivors who moved into the parking lot at Sierra College considered him “the mayor of their little community,” added that “a lot of people are elderly and disabled.”

“They brought us a handicapped shower trailer that I asked for,” he said.

Portable toilets are also in the parking lot thanks to Jones passing on requests from others in the parking lot, as “a lot of people couldn’t get from here up there to the toilets.”

The parking lot is where many pets, including Jones and his two dogs, stay in their car or trailer. However, there is a steep incline between the field and the main evacuation center, which is in the college cafeteria.

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