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Evacuated Mendocino County residents eager to go home as firefight continues

It has been more than a week since Mendocino County resident Greg Lohne left home, since the morning he awoke to smoke, ran to the neighborhood market for news and found himself barred from returning to his house outside Round Valley.

Lohne got special permission to retrieve his dog, J?e, two hours later, but has since been among dozens of evacuees headquartered at the Black Butte River Ranch Country Store and RV Park, waiting for clearance to go home.

Twelve days in, the North Pass fire is clearly taking a toll. Fire officials predict it will take them more than a week to contain the 34,119-acre blaze.

North Pass Fire

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Some folks are getting testy, between the soot-filed air, closures of critical routes and roads crowded with fire and earthmoving equipment.

Four homes and seven outbuildings have been destroyed, and officials said Wednesday the fire still posed a threat to 64 homes, five commercial buildings and 65 outbuildings.

Scores of residents have been evacuated from inside the fire zone, many with little time to prepare. Most came from Indian Dick Road and Mendocino Pass Road/Forest Highway 7. Dozens are staying at the Black Butte River Ranch, at the edge of the Mendocino County National Forest and the fire zone.

Friends from Covelo and Round Valley loaned Lohne a tent, clothes and cash. His construction tools were left behind, so he has been unable to work.

"There's people down here with no clothes or anything," Lohne said by phone Wednesday. "It's crazy."

"It's definitely weighing heavy on everybody at this point," said Margie Garcia, who owns the Black Butte complex with her husband, Tom Oschsner. They have welcomed all comers, some sleeping in their cars.

Garcia has been serving morning coffee and group dinners, thanks in part to contributions of food from folks in town. She said the evacuees "are really anxious to get back up to their place to see if they still have a place."


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