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Oroville Strong still working to bring change out of tragedy

Community comes together to make something positive happen out of the spillway crisis.

Posted: Feb. 13, 2018 3:49 PM
Updated: Feb. 13, 2018 5:47 PM

"When that tweet came across.. Eminent dam failure in 60 minutes? I couldn't even wrap my brain around the catastrophic failure of that and what it would cause," said Oroville Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Sandy Linville.

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One year ago, people living below the Oroville Dam were ordered to flee - but not everyone has a car. Not everyone knew what was happening.

"I knew there were still people down here that needed to get out- I wasn't going to turn and run the opposite way and wonder what could have happened to the people that were still down here if I didn't go back one more time" said Bobby O'Reiley of the oroville United Neighborhood Watch.

O'Reiley says it was a heartbreaking choice to send his family to safety while he stayed to help others.

"The way that it made my family feel that day, because of the neglect of the responsibilities of those who were supposed to maintain the issues? It's absolutely unsatisfactory." said O'Reiley.

For the first responders and emergency workers who had to be in the danger zone? Mike's Grande Burger stayed open, offering free meals.

"You either have to lead, follow or get out of the way, so we led, We did the right thing I feel like" said owner Levi Fuller. "The next thing you know, all the LEO's that were up there all night, were just packed (in here). And then everybody started coming in, it was a cool thing to be a part of ... It ended up being a place for people just to meet, re-group and figure out where everybody was at."

The very day after everyone was allowed to return to their homes? Oroville Strong was born, starting with a small group of community leaders. And it grew!

"We're all back, we're all safe, let's start working as a community to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Linville.

Over the course of a year, Oroville Strong has helped file a lawsuit against the DWR.

They've gathered support for a new dam safety law to ensure regular inspections.

"The local advisory commission is the thing that I'm most proud of because it gives a voice to our community because it gives a voice to our community and our sister communities downstream, that our opinions matter, that they have merit,' said Linville.

"What we're really saying now as a united front? No more will we be treated like second class citizens ... You're going to see the face of the city of Oroville change, and change for the better, positive, we're stronger than ever," said Oroville Vice Mayor Janet Goodson.

"I know that we're going to see major changes, not only for Oroville but for the whole state" said O'Reiley.

"With every tragedy the community's either going to come together or fall apart. We came together" said Fuller.

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