For Some, Wall Fire Claims Heavy Toll

Jul 12, 2017

With some fearing the worst, people ordered from their homes as the Wall Fire spread were invited by authorities Tuesday to learn the fate of everything they left behind. 

A slow trickle of residents, some almost buoyant, others seemingly dragging their feet, approached the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Oroville, hoping for the best.  

They had come to hear directly from Cal Fire and Butte County officials whether their homes were among the 41 consumed by the fire. 

Carolyn Opalenik has lived above Oroville for nearly two decades.  

“We, we’ve lost everything," she said. "We got out with the clothes on our backs. So, that’s it. And my car, but we lost everything.”   

Opalenik said that the inferno appeared out of nowhere Friday evening, giving her and her family very little time to escape.  

“Not very much warning at all," she said. "We just, there was an explosion and we seen the flames coming at us and…we got to get out. And it was, by the time we got what we could in the, get the kids in the cars and I grabbed their birth certificates and that was it, it was like, we got to go. We got to go, it’s right at our back door.” 

She and her children are now staying in a borrowed trailer with no water or refrigeration.  

Others felt a mix of relief and guilt. Jeanean Krejci also had little time.  

“We ended up having to leave the kitty cat behind, and everything in the house except for you know, the clothes that we had with us and a few things,” she said. 

Despite enduring hardships over the past few days she and her husband George seemed almost buoyant after learning their house was still standing. 

Long-time resident John Bachellerie said this was his third fire. He said he’ll cut even more defensible space around his home, among other actions.  

“I might put sprinklers on my roof, you know, or I might move,” he said. 

Disaster relief officials from the county, state and nonprofit agencies were offering aid and referrals for those impacted. County spokeswoman Casey Hatcher said elected officials will likely consider actions to aid rebuilding efforts. The assistance center at the Municipal Auditorium remains open through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.