Gamblers Pack Brooks, California, Casino Despite Wildfires and COVID-19

Gamblers Pack Brooks, California, Casino Despite Wildfires and COVID-19

BROOKS, CA—By Friday evening, northern California’s LNU Lightning Complex fire had become the second-largest wildfire in state history, killing at least five people, destroying 500 structures, and forcing evacuations in two cities and an Air Force base. It was just 15 percent contained.

But up in rural Capay Valley, as the historic blaze crept within two miles of Cache Creek Casino Resort and the sun blazed orange behind blooms of smoke, hundreds of gamblers shirked both fire and the coronavirus pandemic to enjoy a night working the slots and trying their luck at the tables.

“These fires are going to continue to go up every year,” said Jose Perez, 44, drinking a beer at the casino bar with his mask covering around his neck. “They had the same fires last year.”

Yolo County—yes, that is the name of the jurisdiction in question—years ago divided Capay Valley into two distinct evacuation zones, separated down the center by Highway 16, which runs north and south through the valley and is the only road one can take out. 

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