Well-Known Tourist Attraction in California at Risk During Raging Wildfires

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Jul 05, 2024

A massive wildfire in California has already burned 3,500 acres and is currently approaching a popular tourist destination while thousands of people are evacuated.

The Thompson fire rages on Oroville outskirts in Butte County, California. Unless firefighters can control the flames, it threatens to destroy the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve.

The Thompson Wildfire

The fire started burning on Tuesday morning and is currently 3,568 acres in size. Firefighters have been able to contain 7 percent of the blaze, although, with winds picking up in the state, containment is becoming more difficult.

The side of a large mountain engulfed in red flames

Source: @ABC/X

The wildfire began as a result of a scorching heatwave in the state. Already dry and tinder conditions picked up the blaze when hot winds started to blow in the northern areas of California.

North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve

The reserve is famous for its majestic spring wildflower bloom. During this time, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit to see the unique geological formations and diverse animal and plant life.

The side of a large mountain filled with orange and purple wildflowers

Source: @nokhumming_lol/X

The area sits on a mesa-like land formation north of Oroville, which was created by ancient lava flows. The wildflowers bloom from February to late May.

Risk to the Ecological Area

The wildflowers that bloom on the reserve are lupines, poppies, and rare Table Mountain meadowfoam. Many of these flowers only bloom in this location due to the specific weather and soil conditions.

A meadow filled with small colorful flowers

Source: Pamela Heckel/Unsplash

If the blaze sweeps through the reserve, the land may be permanently scarred, forcing a total collapse of the ecosystem.

Conditions Are Changing Daily

Garrett Sjolund, the unit chief for Cal Fire’s Butte County Fire Department, said at a press conference on Tuesday, “Conditions out there in our county this summer are much different than what we’ve experienced the last two summers,” and that fire teams are attempting to mitigate the fire as it changes by the hour.

The sun seen through a red haze with palm trees underneath during a California wildfire.

Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images

A dry summer and water shortage has resulted in the fuels being very
“dense, the brush is dry and as you’ll see, any wind out there will move the fire quickly.”

Thousands of Residents Evacuated

Over the Fourth of July holiday, thousands of residents lost power, and many more were forced to evacuate their homes due to multiple fires burning in the north.

A small town with a dark plume of smoke in the background

Source: @CANews_Watch/X

Now, 13,000 residents of Butte County have been forced out of their homes while 1,900 firefighters work to contain the blaze.


Firefighters Have Been Injured

So far, four firefighters have been injured while attempting to contain the blaze.

Two firefighters use a large hose to put out a fire

Source: Matt C New/Unsplash

In an effort to mitigate the conditions in the area, Butte County called for a total firework ban for the fourth of July and power was cut off in areas close to the fire.


State of Emergency Declared

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsome declared a state of Emergency in California due to the number of fires burning in the state.

Gavin Newsom wearing a suit and speaking at a podium.

Office of the Governor of California/Wikimedia Commons

In a statement to the public, Newsom noted, “We are using every available tool to tackle this fire and will continue to work closely with our local and federal partners to support impacted communities. As we head into some of the most challenging months of wildfire season, the state is better prepared than ever to protect at-risk communities with new tools, technology and resources.”


Deadly Fires in the Area Just Years Ago

The majority of evacuated residents live on the outskirts of Oroville, which is adjacent to Paradise, CA.

A photograph of wildfires in a forest on a mountain

Source: Freepik

In 2018, a massive camp fire swept through Paradise and claimed the lives of 85 people. The community is still reeling from the massive loss and is relatively unprepared for another devastating fire.


Hot Weather Will Continue in the Area

Unfortunately, fire response is getting bad news; the hot temperatures are expected to continue through the weekend.

Heatwave on the city with the glowing sun background. Heatwave concept

Source: Leolintang, Unsplash

Temps are expected to reach as high as 114 degrees Fahrenheit in Oroville over the weekend. The record-breaking heatwave is expected to continue for at least a few days and may extend into early next week.


Excessive Heat Warnings for Northern Californians

The National Weather Service (NWS) posted that, “Dangerously hot conditions with high temperatures from 105 to 118. Limited overnight relief with low temperatures in the upper 60s to mid 80s. Widespread Major to Extreme HeatRisk is expected.”

A low sunset in a red and orange sky in front of low mountains

Source: Lucian/Unsplash

Until temperatures can cool down, the fire is likely going to keep growing out of control.


Wildflowers May Recover Next Spring

A spokesperson at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a public statement that “Grasses and wildflowers do tend to regenerate very quickly. Particularly native plants, they’re adapted to fire.”

California officials hope the damage to the ecological reserve is not permanent and that, with luck, wildfires will continue to grow from the scotched earth next spring.