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Cal Expo Fire Evacuation Called Into Question After Main Gate Closed During July 4 Fire

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Thousands were forced to evacuate Cal Expo during Friday's fire, but they had to do so through just two turnstiles as the main gate was blocked off.

Cal Expo officials say they did what needed to be done on Friday to make sure everyone could exit safely. But many parkgoers say they would have like things to be handled differently.

"I think when you're a mom, you just try to save your kids first," said Tiffany Power.

The fire on the American River Parkway bike trail on July 4 threatened Cal Expo, forcing evacuations. During that evacuation the main gate was blocked off.

Cal Expo officials say they had to temporarily close down this gate, because there was a group of unruly people trying to get into the park as evacuations were going on. That forced 1,900 people to have to go through one of two turnstiles.

"When people were trying to come in during the evacuation, we felt the safest thing to do, was kind of stop that entry point for a few minutes," said marketing director Jennifer Castleberry.

Power and other parkgoers don't agree with that decision.

"Having a ton of people behind me trying to get out with my little guys. I can't imagine that feeling of overwhelmness," she said.

"We felt that everything actually did work out in a very orderly fashion and people were very cooperative," Castleberry said.

Cal Expo officials say they recently reviewed their emergency plan when they added Bonney Field, and said they followed procedure.

Fire investigators are still trying to figure out how the fire started.

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