Thompson fire in Northern California slows as some residents allowed to return

A devastating wildfire that destroyed buildings and forced 29,000 people to evacuate near Oroville in Butte County, California, appears to be slowing, officials said.

Firefighters battled the flames overnight, and as of Thursday morning, the spread of the blaze, dubbed the Thompson Fire, remained relatively stable, with about 3,700 acres burned. The strong winds that initially fanned the fire weakened overnight, and officials said they planned to repopulate some areas today that were previously under evacuation orders.

On Thursday afternoon, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office lifted evacuation orders and warnings for more than 20 areas and reduced evacuation orders to warnings for about 20 more areas, allowing many residents displaced by the fire to return to their homes.

So far, four firefighters have been injured and four structures have been destroyed as a result of the fire, according to the Cal Fire incident report. The fire has also destroyed vehicles, based on news reports.

“Overall, it looks good,” said Kevin Colburn, a Cal Fire spokesman. “The fire is not doing what it did on the first day. It’s not spreading rapidly. It’s pretty much staying in the footprint that it’s in.”

Mr Colburn added that while officials felt “more confident” about the slowing spread of the fire and the ability of firefighters to contain it, there was still much work to be done and the situation could change. As of Thursday morning, the fire was 7 per cent contained.

Some people who returned to the area Thursday remained concerned. Angel Williams, the assistant manager at Foothill Boarding and Grooming in Oroville, spent the morning re-inserting a group of dogs into kennels after they were evacuated Tuesday.

The nearby hills were charred black and a hot, smoky breeze blew through the complex. The facility was not damaged, but Mrs. Williams tried to reduce the number of animals in her care by sending dogs to the owners’ emergency contacts in case the situation changed.

“We’re still on alert,” Ms. Williams said, noting the fire was only a few miles away. “I’ve had a terrible headache all day because I’m so worried.”

Much of California is battling a brutal heat wave. Temperatures in Oroville were expected to reach 110 degrees on Thursday, with even higher temperatures expected in the coming days. The rising heat, combined with low humidity, could contribute to increased fire activity, officials said. Two smaller fires ignited within a few miles of the Oroville blaze on Wednesday, but were quickly contained.

Butte County has been the scene of several devastating fires in recent years, including the 2018 Camp Fire, one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history, which killed 85 people and nearly destroyed the town of Paradise, about 20 miles north of Oroville.

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