PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KSEE) – The Windy Fire burning near the Tule River Reservation has now burned over 85,000 acres and is at about 2% containment.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office issued new evacuation warnings for the community of Gold Ledge Campground South to River Kern on the Tulare County side.
The American Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at Porterville College. Everyone who walks through the front door is given a cot, two blankets, and meals throughout the day.
81-year-old Pauline Meachen has lived near Camp Nelson for 50 years. Over that time, she and her 20-year-old cat Moto have evacuated three times due to fire danger. Two of those times were in the last two years.
“This was the third time, so I was prepared,” said Meachen. “If it weren’t for the Red Cross, I would be broke. Last year, they paid, the year before they didn’t. Last year, they paid for our motel, and I will cry in a minute, and this year we are here, which is fine.”
Over 400 people just like Meachen have been told to leave their homes due to the Windy Fire, which first ignited on September 9th due to lightning.
“Everyone needs to be ready to go,” said Windy Fire Public Information Officer Jim Mackensen. “This has been one of the strangest fire seasons in my 47 years out here.”
Mackensen said the drought and bug kill have led to unusual fire behaviors, with more of the Windy Fire’s growth overnight.
“That’s 180 degrees of what these normally do,” said Mackensen.
That growth has led to more evacuation warnings in the Southeast part of the fire. The American Red Cross is ready if more evacuations turn from warnings to mandatory, with the fire not expected to be fully contained until the middle of October.
“Anyone that needs to come have a safe place to stay,” said Red Cross Spokesperson Taylor Poisall. “Maybe they have been in a hotel for over a week and now they are looking for other accommodations, the Red Cross is there to provide that.”