We are coming up on the three year anniversary of the Oroville Dam crisis. It is a time to think about and reflect upon the acts of heroics conducted by those members of the Butte County Correctional Officers Association.
On February 7, 2017, the main spillway of the Oroville Dam was damaged. The California Department of Water Resources stopped the water release of the main spillway in an attempt to assess the damage and come up with a plan on how to address it.
Continuing rain and water runoff in February continued to raise the water levels of Lake Oroville. On February 11, 2017 the emergency spillway was used for the first time in the near 50 year history of the Oroville Dam. Erosion of the emergency spillway was expected but progressed much further than anticipated.
On February 12, 2017, advanced corrosion of the emergency spillway was threatening to collapse a concrete weir and send a 30-foot wall of water down the Feather River. The wall of water would have flooded and caused massive damage in the communities downstream of the Feather River and risking many lives.
An evacuation was ordered in Butte, Yuba, and Sutter counties along the Feather River. By February 13th over 188,000 people living in the lower basin of the Feather River were evacuated.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea ordered the evacuation of the Butte County jail. It was the first time in Butte County jail’s history that it had to be evacuated. Correctional Deputies of the Butte County jail rushed into Oroville, risking their lives, while the entire town was being evacuated to assist in safely, and professionally evacuate all 578 inmates.
An armada of 37 different transport vehicles varying from patrol cars, transport vans, and even county school buses were utilized to transport the Butte County Jail’s inmate population to the Santa Rita Jail in the city of Dublin, California. From the order to evacuate to getting the inmates rehoused in the Santa Rita Jail took a total of 13.5 hours. 24 Butte County Correctional Deputies stayed and worked in the Santa Rita Jail for six days. The inmates were returned to the Butte County Jail on February 18th.
During this unprecedented event, none of the Correctional Deputies or inmates were hurt or injured and no inmates escaped.
The Correctional Deputies and Correctional Technicians involved during the Oroville Dam incident received letters of commendations from the Sheriff for their heroic efforts during a state of emergency for risking their lives to make sure the jail was evacuated.