Wildfire Evacuees Given Deadline To Leave Camp In Walmart Parking Lot

Evacuees, including a 3-week-old baby, will lose their temporary home by this weekend.

A wildfire evacuee sorts through donated clothing at a makeshift evacuation shelter in a Walmart parking lot on November 15, 2018.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Evacuees, including a 3-week-old baby, will lose their temporary home by this weekend.

A makeshift wildfire evacuation shelter in a Walmart parking lot is being shut down, leaving hundreds of evacuees from California’s devastating Camp Fire frantic and homeless yet again, KPIX 5 reported.

Donation bins and portable restrooms that have been provided for the camp will be removed by the Red Cross by 1 p.m. this Sunday according to the shelter’s co-organizer Luigi Balsamo, who said the evacuees need a “clear exit strategy.”

The announcement has left many of the more than 1,000 wildfire victims that have established a temporary community in the parking lot panicked, including evacuee Carol Whiteburn.

“They’re taking everything on Sunday, the bathrooms, the lights, everything,” she told KPIX 5. “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

While Emergency officials have said they are aware of the situation, they do not have federal assistance available yet. Workers with the Federal Emergency Management Agency worked through the night to set up a disaster recovery center in an old Sears store in the Chico mall, which was set to be up and running by 9 a.m. today, but people initially will only be able to register there — temporary housing is still days away.

“What do you tell people who are sleeping in a parking lot and still have to wait 5-7 days to even get an answer from FEMA?” KPIX 5 asked FEMA External Affairs Officer Brad Pierce.

“I would tell them that our heart goes out to them,” he said. “We understand the situation. We are working around the clock to try and help them.”

FEMA has said that in the meantime, shelters are supposed to be the solution, but at least four of the shelters housing Camp Fire evacuees are experiencing outbreaks of norovirus that are getting worse every day, KPIX 5 noted.

“I’d rather breathe the smoke,” Whiteburn said.

The result leaves these Camp Fire victims–ranging from a 3-week old baby to elderly people in their 80s–in limbo plagued by constant thoughts of uncertainty over what is next to come.

“We have weather coming. It’s going to rain. What happens when it rains on all this stuff, or the flood zone where these people have their tents are camped out over here?” Balsamo said. “We’re going to have a major crisis on our hands for the community here of Chico if these people have to go hit the streets.”

According to KPIX 5, city officials have said they are not going to be aggressive in the enforcement process, but the spot has stopped accepting donations and the threat of the 1 p.m. deadline continues to haunt the evacuees in the Walmart parking lot in Chico.