By Macy Jenkins

MERCED (CBS13) — Hundreds of evacuated residents packed inside of the Merced Theatre Thursday night for a community meeting on the Detwiler Fire. The top question fire officials heard: when can I go back to my home?

“With cellphones, we’re seeing what’s going on back home, and we’re just staying out of the way,” said Bill Savage, who evacuated from his Catheys Valley home four days ago.

He’s been camping out in front of the Merced Horseman’s Association with five dogs, five cats, five horses and two donkeys.

“Are we going to be victims or are we going to save our horses?” he thought when the fire first began. “So we hauled our horses down, and we went home and got the people!”

He’s one of the hundreds pushed out by the Detwiler Fire, looking to fire officials in Merced for answers.

Sonoma County CalFire Chief Todd Derum says officials are trying to put homeowners at ease even if they can’t answer all the questions they have.

The most popular questions, he said, were ‘Where is the fire out?’ and ‘Is my house okay?’

And Derum says bringing the residents together not only helps worried homeowners but helps the firefighters too.

“The citizens are a source of information as well,” he explained.

Thirty miles away, the town of Mariposa remained largely deserted, with residents not allowed back in their homes. But at John C. Fremont Hospital, doctors, nurses, and patients remained.

“Our first concern is the health and well-being of our patients and to move them from this facility puts added stress on them,” said Matthew Matthiessen, the hospital’s interim CEO.

He told CBS13 staff members were keeping an eye out for any changes in the fire and happy the hospital has plenty of defensible space.

“The experts here said that that our best option was to stay and shelter in place,” Matthiessen said.

During the meeting, CalFire officials said the fire is burning most aggressively on the north and east ends, and the firefight will likely continue for several more weeks.


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