Still No Temporary FEMA Housing As Storms Hit Fire Zone

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Some evacuees from the Camp Fire are living in a tent encampment outside a Walmart in downtown Chico. (John Sepulvado/KQED)

Updated Wednesday, 3:20 p.m. 

FEMA still hadn't provided any emergency trailers for survivors of the Camp Fire as of Wednesday, almost two weeks after the deadly blaze forced thousands of residents to leave their homes and as major storms hit the region.

The Red Cross has set up seven temporary emergency shelters, but only shelters at the Butte County and Glenn County fairgrounds were still accepting large numbers of people, the state Office of Emergency Services said.

“[The non-fairgrounds shelters] are nearing capacity. However, we will not turn anyone away," said Georgia Duncan, a Red Cross spokeswoman. "We will make sure everybody has a warm place to stay, so that is not a concern.”

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for the burn area from Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning. Officials warned residents of the potential for flash floods and debris flows, with heavy rainfall possible at times.

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The Camp Fire -- the deadliest and most destructive fire in state history -- has destroyed more than 12,000 homes, and at least 81 people have died in the blaze, according to Cal Fire.

Many of the thousands of people who had to flee lodged at friends' houses, hotels and evacuation centers; others have been camping in tents outside.

President Trump last week approved a major disaster declaration for California, making federal funding available for recovery efforts in Butte County and  other areas affected by wildfires. That helps people impacted by the fires to access services, like housing assistance, Gov. Jerry Brown said in a press release.

Nearly 15,000 households have applied for federal disaster assistance in Butte County, said Brad Pierce of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Temporary housing aid often includes manufactured RVs and manufactured housing units, according to FEMA's website. While 80 FEMA trailers sitting at McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento, FEMA said they weren't for fire survivors.

Pierce said crews were inspecting potential locations to build temporary housing; working sewage and utilities were key.

"This process will have to be completed with sites identified and approved by the state before any temporary units can be brought in," he said.

FEMA does have immediate services available, including the Transitional Housing Assistance Program, which helps cover the cost of short-term hotel stays, Pierce said. Some 66 families totaling about 175 people were staying at area hotels through the program.

The agency is also offering a month of rental assistance once inspectors verify homes are uninhabitable. More than 4,000 homes have been inspected so far.

Two non-Red Cross facilities in Chico were running pop-up shelters: East Avenue Church and Azad's Martial Arts (Azad's will offer shelter only through Friday, Nov. 23).

Some 475 people were staying outside shelters in RVs and tents, but that number doesn't include all camping areas in Butte County, a county spokeswoman said on Tuesday.