A Northern California VA clinic has shut down a threatened headquarters annex and installed air purifiers at its main facility to guard against smoke from wildfires raging nearby.
The staff at the administrative annex of the Redding, California, outpatient clinic was evacuated when the fires got too close, but the two main facilities, which serve about 800 veterans daily, remain open, VA Northern California Health Care System officials said Tuesday.
"Several of our staff have lost their homes and dozens more have been forced to evacuate," said Will Martin, spokesman for VA NorCal's Health Care System.
The clinic at Redding, on the Sacramento River about 120 miles from the Oregon border, "is the primary source of health care for thousands of veterans in the region," and Department of Veterans Affairs staff provided on-call services over the weekend to veterans unable to reach the facility, Martin said.
Eleven HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters have been installed at the Redding clinic to force the interior air through a fine mesh that collects harmful particles such as ash, smoke and pollen, preventing veterans and staff from breathing in the materials.
In addition, VA NorCal has deployed three heavy-duty vehicles, 10 boxes of N95 respirators, and additional medications to the Redding site.
VA NorCal has also sent Vet Center mobile units to evacuation shelters to provide on-site care to veterans.
The wildfire near Redding is one of 15 across the state that have burned more than 280,000 acres and engaged 12,300 firefighters battling the flames in triple-digit heat.
At least eight people have been killed, more than 30,000 have been evacuated, and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.
High winds have complicated the effort to fight the blaze near Redding, which was believed to have been started July 23 by a vehicle mechanical failure, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox said the intensity of this summer's wildfires is historic.
"What we're seeing in California right now is more destructive, larger fires burning at rates that we have historically never seen," he said in a statement.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.