By Heather Janssen

PLACER COUNTY (CBS13) — Thousands of people remain under mandatory evacuation orders in Placer and Nevada counties as crews continue to battle the flames of the River Fire. It’s consumed more than 80 structures and damaged many more.

People in evacuation warning zones have the chance to return home, but those under mandatory evacuation orders are still waiting.

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Sandra Milanello is one of them. Her family found refuge in their mobile home days after abandoning everything.

“It’s hard to drive away from your house, and wonder if you’re ever going to see it again,” Milanello said.

The entire Red Cross evacuation center at Bear River High School in Grass Valley knows that feeling, too. Some wonder what’s still standing. Milanello said she’s learned she’s one of the lucky ones.

“A lot of our neighborhood in Chicago Park,” she said. “Orchard Spring is okay.”

But not everyone was so fortunate. Dozens of homes were lost, including Eric Humble’s.

“The pool house, the house, both my trucks—my pickups—they’re burned,” he said.

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Others are left in limbo, and unsure what they’ll come across when evacuation orders are lifted. Many are anxiously awaiting updates of when that may be.

“Is it one day, is it ten days?” Milanello said.

The question is especially poignant when flames are no longer active. River Fire officials say they still have to make sure everything is safe.

“That means things like utilities including water and power are resupplied,” said Chris Vestal, the River Fire public information officer. “There aren’t any snags – like dead trees which can fall on people.”

But even in this time of turmoil, you’ll still find a sense of optimism.

“We’re going to pull our bootstraps up and rebuild,” Humble said. “It’s what we do.

The surrounding Colfax community remains waiting days after facing the flames.

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River Fire officials refer to their twice-daily updates for more information on evacuations. But some of the evacuees feel hopeful they can go home in the next day or two.

Heather Janssen