California Man Refuses Evacuation, Feeds Deer Amid Growing Mosquito Fire

by Caitlin Berard

As the Mosquito Fire blazes on in Northern California, evacuation orders continue to be passed down by Governor Gavin Newsom. The wildfire, which first sparked on September 6, has now burned through more than 60,000 acres in the Tahoe and Eldorado National Forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, fueled by southwest winds.

“We’re ready for an absolute blowup out here,” Jonathan Pangburn, a fire behavior analyst explained in a Forest Service briefing on Wednesday. “It doesn’t need a lot of wind.”

Around 70 residential and commercial structures have been decimated by the fire in both El Dorado and Placer counties, and an additional 9,000 are currently being threatened. The encroaching threat has led more than 11,000 residents to evacuate the area.

Many of these residents evacuated of their own volition, while others were following the mandatory evacuation orders. For one California resident, however, evacuation is a last resort option. After all, who will feed the local deer without him?

In a recent interview with CBS News, Greg Heller explained why he’s among the few Placer County residents to refuse the evacuation order. According to Greg Heller, he feeds 20-30 deer every day.

“If you spend enough time with them, you become attached,” Heller said of his woodland friends. “And I just had to make sure… I see them in a panic mode, you can read ’em.”

California Man Protects Neighborhood From Looters in Mosquito Fire

Along with caring for the local wildlife, the California resident is also keeping an eye on his neighbors’ homes. Heller is the only resident on his street to stay behind as the Mosquito Fire inches closer and worries that his neighbors could fall victim to looting. “Everybody else left. One guy’s gotta stay, right?” he said.

Placer County police are on constant patrols in the area, but Heller still needs to remain on high alert. In the event of a wildfire flare-up, police won’t knock on each door individually. Instead, they will drive the streets with a high low siren, alerting those left in the neighborhood to evacuate immediately.

For Greg Heller, this is perfectly understandable. “The last thing I want to do is make their life difficult,” he explained.

Officials remain uncertain of a timeline for the evacuation orders. According to Cal Fire, the Mosquito Fire is only 20 percent contained and could pose a threat to residents unexpectedly at any time. As of today (September 15), the inferno is now the largest fire in California this year.

Greg Heller remains confident, however, that he’ll know if and when it’s time to flee the Mosquito Fire. “You know what, you just rely on your gut,” he said. “And if your gut’s telling you to roll, roll. Get out of here.”