Dixie Fire: Greenville evacuees crowd Susanville parking lots, waiting for news back home

Amy Alonzo
Reno Gazette Journal
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Highway 395 runs through the center of Susanville, a sleepy Sierra Nevada town of about 15,000 people. 

But under a low-hanging haze of smoke, the city is suddenly hopping. Fire engines from cities as far away as Huntington Beach and Los Angeles crowd the highway. RV’s are camped at Walmart, Subway and any parking lot with an open space. 

Just south of Susanville, in the small town of Janesville, flatbed trucks hauling dozers dot the sides of the road. California Highway Patrol vehicles cruise rural county roads. 

Residents evacuated by the Dixie Fire talk about their experiences on Monday.

By Monday, the Dixie Fire had burned through 489,287 acres, or 764.5 square miles, with containment only at 21%, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. As of Sunday night, 275 people were sheltered at Susanville’s two emergency shelters, according to Lassen County Administrator Richard Egan. 

“We’re doing whatever we can to provide areas for people to go to in this time,” he said.  

The manager of a Susanville RV Park who declined to be identified said there is a waiting list of about a dozen people looking for sites at the park.

Scott Enos and his mom, Susan, are among those on the waiting list. The pair, who live in nearby Chester, Calif., are camped at the Walmart parking lot in Susanville with their three cats and two dogs. 

Her family home in Greenville burned last week, and “that was a big hit,” she said.

Dixie Fire updates: California's second largest wildfire ever grows to nearly 500,000 acres

She hopes a site opens up at the RV park so she, her son and pets, some of whom are blind and diabetic, can be more comfortable. 

Until a spot opens, she is grateful for services from the Red Cross and Salvation Army. She and her son have been camped at Walmart for about a week, and they’ve had deliveries of pet food, watermelon, enchiladas and pizza.

“They’ve really stepped up,” she said. 

Residents evacuated by the Dixie Fire talk about their experiences on Monday.

Jeff Jensen stood in a dusty Janesville pasture filled with horses, dogs, tents and camp trailers. 

“This is where we’re at until we can go back home, or until they push us out,” said Jensen, who is staying on property owned by a “friend of a friend of a friend.”

“He was just kind enough to open his field up to us.”

Jensen is camped in a tent with his 15-year-old son. 

Jensen’s brother, who lives in Greenville, a town decimated by the fire, lost his house. Jensen is grateful that so far, Chester has escaped largely unscathed. 

“It’s a bunch of small communities, but we all still work together, the kids go to school together,” he said. 

Residents evacuated by the Dixie Fire talk about their experiences on Monday.

Kim Clark, a friend of Jensen’s, is less upbeat. 

Today is her son’s 17th birthday, and she doesn’t know how they will celebrate.

She, her husband, four kids, four cats, three dogs and a turtle are all camped in a cramped trailer in the pasture. 

“I’m so traumatized,” she said. “I don’t like this at all … never in a million years did I think Greenville and Almanor would burn.”

“I’m so scared to see what home looks like.” 

Residents evacuated by the Dixie Fire talk about their experiences on Monday.

Angela Rutledge has lived in Janesville for two years. Both years, she’s been asked to evacuate because of wildfires.

Last year, during the Sheep Fire, she stayed for work. This year, she plans to leave. She and her husband have already packed suitcases of clothes and important documents. Without a trailer, she will have to leave her goat, three pigs and 15 chickens behind.

“I’m very nervous,” she said.

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