California Fire Update As Inferno Threatens Major Tourist Attraction

    California Fire Update As Inferno Threatens Major Tourist Attraction

    An enormous wildfire over 3,500 acres in area is approaching a popular California destination.

    The Thompson fire, which is currently burning at the outskirts of Oroville in Butte County, California, is slowly getting closer to the famous North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve.

    This reserve is famed for its spectacular bloom of wildflowers in the spring months, drawing vast numbers of tourists thanks to its unique geological formations, and diverse plant and animal life.

    wildflower reserve wildfire
    Flowers bloom at the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Butte County and, inset, the Thompson fire burns near Lake Oroville. The wildfire is now approaching the tourist attraction.


    The North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve is situated on a mesa-like landform just north of Oroville, created by ancient lava flows. One of the main attractions of the site is its spectacular wildflower blooms, which occur typically from late February to early May. The reserve hosts a variety of native wildflowers, including lupines, poppies, and the rare Table Mountain meadowfoam.

    The reserve is now closed due to the Thompson wildfire, which started burning on Tuesday morning. The fire is currently 3,568 acres in area, and only 7 percent contained, according to the latest Cal Fire update. The wildfire is thought to have started as a result of the intense heatwave currently scorching California, combined with the incredibly parched scrub vegetation in the area.

    “Conditions out there in our county this summer are much different than what we’ve experienced the last two summers,” Garrett Sjolund, the unit chief for Cal Fire’s Butte County Fire Department, said at a news conference on Tuesday. “The fuels are very dense, the brush is dry and as you’ll see, any wind out there will move the fire quickly.”

    Over 13,000 residents of Butte County have evacuated their homes, and 1,900 firefighters are working to contain the blaze, four of whom have been injured.

    Please see press release from our partners California State Parks regarding cancellation of the 4th of July fireworks show in the Oroville area.

    California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.

    “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,” Newsom said in the statement.

    thompson fire
    A CalFire fireman takes photos as the Thompson fire burns over Lake Oroville in Oroville, California on July 2, 2024.

    JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

    Many of the people told to evacuate live in the northern outskirts of Oroville, which itself is only about 20 miles south of Paradise, a town that was scorched by the 2018 Camp Fire, claiming 85 lives. Oroville’s July 4 fireworks display this evening has been canceled by California State Parks due to the evacuations and damage caused by the inferno.

    The hot weather isn’t going away in the next couple of days, with temperatures soaring as high as 114 degrees F in Oroville this weekend. Temperatures are expected to break records across the state in the coming days, with much of the state being under Excessive Heat Warnings, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

    “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,” the NWS said in an advisory on Thursday for the region including Oroville and the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve.

    Luckily for the reserve, the plants will recover by next spring even if the blaze makes its way into the site.

    “Grasses and wildflowers do tend to regenerate very quickly. Particularly native plants, they’re adapted to fire,” Laura Drath at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told SFGATE. “We would expect that there wouldn’t be too many long term impacts on the wildflowers themselves and with any luck, they should be back in the spring as usual.”

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