Walmart is urging people to evacuate the impermanent campsite that sprung up in one of its parking lots as the Camp Fire burned through northern California.
The company’s spokeswoman Delia Garcia said “The weather forecast from the National Weather Service showing steady rain continuing through Friday has heightened our existing concerns and increased the urgency to find a more sustainable solution,”.
The Walmart parking lot in Chico became an instant refuge for the Butte County residents who fled the deadly blaze. The parking lot which is located about 10 minutes down the hill from the town of Paradise, was a familiar place to settle for evacuees with no other options.
Paradise bore the burden of the Camp Fire’s wrath.
The campsite which began as a impermanent shelter turned into a alternative village. Volunteers dispersed supplies like smoke masks, dog food, clothes and other essentials. As time went on, both the City of Chico and Walmart started encouraging people to leave.
They posted signs with information about shelters and gave free bus rides to those locations, including gas gift cards, money and food.
the city in a statement said “Walmart was one of the generous community partners that offered a site for respite and relief. Courageous and compassionate community volunteers came together and built an immediate safe place for many evacuees,”
The city said Though, it resounded worries over the location as a lasting camping location, “primarily due to the rain and temperature changes as well as the lack of services available to help evacuees,”.
It stated “The City of Chico is committed to providing safe places for all residents in our community. We believe the infants, children and adults staying in tents on Walmart property deserve better. While we do not think the Walmart location is a safe or sustainable place for individuals to reside, we understand Walmart is working on viable solutions regarding this situation and we look forward to hearing their plans in the coming days.”
Authorities started raising fears last week that the start of heavy rain can cause dangerous circumstances. With more than 151,000 acres of newly burnt earth, heavy rain predicted this week could result to flooding and mudslides.
About 1 million people are under flash flood watch in the region, where 4 to 6 inches of rain has been predicted to fall through Friday. Rain started in Paradise around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, raining nearly a half inch within an few hours. A break was likely before it begins by evening.
Walmart’s tent city was not intended for lasting housing. There’s no running water for basic facilities like toilets or showers. And now, more shelters and housing options are available than in the early days of the wildfire.
Garcia said “We continue to be concerned about the health, safety and well-being of the individuals remaining on our property and have been working cooperatively with city, county and state officials and local non-profits to increase capacity at local shelters and help create good temporary housing options,”.