Mendocino County feeling overlooked as firestorm rages on

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UPDATE: KTVU spoke with Carmel Angelo with Mendocino County for an update on the fire fight in Mendocino County. As of Friday morning, eight lives had been lost and more than 34,000 acres had burned. Containment was at 10 percent. She said not much has changed in the past 24 hours although wind conditions are a concern. 

The world is watching Napa and Sonoma counties right now, but fires burning to the north, in Mendocino County, have now charred more than 50 square miles and killed eight people.

People in the county, a tourist destination about 160 miles north of San Francisco, say they need help too, and feel largely overlooked.

“(Napa and Sonoma) have received the spotlight of the news but the devastation is just as much here,’’ said Vanlee Waters, a marketing and tourism representative with Visit Mendocino County. “There are people who have lost just about everything. I think we got a little short shrift in the national news.”

The fire has destroyed 250 homes and roughly 90 other smaller structures, such as barns and sheds, and it continues to threaten another 1,000 structures, Cal Fire officials said Thursday.

On Wednesday, a shift in the wind fanned the fires and flames in the Potter Valley exploded forcing about 1,000 people from their homes, and increasing the chance that the devastation could be come more widespread, officials said.

Kira and Cody Swan are already faced with the devastation. 

Th Swans sand seven other relatives lived in three residences on a four-acre plot of land in Redwood Valley. The young couple have identical triplet girls who will be 2 years old early next year.%INLINE%

The fire that swept through the compound Sunday night destroyed absolutely everything, Kira Swan said.

A few pairs of underwear, three car seats, some pictures off the wall and their dog was all they were able to grab as the fire moved in.

“I wish we had had more time,’’ said Kira Swan.

About 45 minutes after they left, the home was leveled, she said. Though some community members have donated diapers and clothing to her, she is in desperate need to get the word out that she needs help.

“It does kind of feel like we are neglected,’’ she said.

The family especially needs grocery store gift cards. They spent  their last $230 on food Sunday night before the fire started and all those groceries are gone, she said. 

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Meanwhile, officials held a community meeting Thursday to update residents on the fires and the best ways to find help.%INLINE%

Cal fire officials say the Redwood/Potter fires were just 5 percent contained Thursday. But with firefighters getting more of a handle on the fire burning in Lake County, more crews are expected to work the Mendocino fires in coming days, said Cal Fire Operations Chief Mark Higgins.

Carmel Angelo, the chief executive officer for the county, also provided an update on county services. She said the Willits Library will be open seven days a week with Wi-Fi. County offices are also open and 500 protective masks will be distributed  at 9:30 a.m. Friday in front of the Willits Library.

Large animals that are injured or stray should be taken to the fairgrounds in Ukiah while horses that are healthy should go to the Boonville Fairgrounds.

“Mendocino County is here for you,’’ said Angelo. “We are here to serve you, we care about you.”

Steve Kaufman, who works as a captain in Ventura but is assisting Cal Fire in Mendocino, offered support for residents impacted by the fires.

He said crews from San Diego, Los Angeles, Washington, Oregon and Nevada are on the fire lines.

“While we are in Mendocino, I want you to know we are your firefighters,’’ he said. “Every single one of these firefighters is treating you like you are their community.”