Back-to-back crises boost California sheriff's profileRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Nov 28 2018 12:39 PM
CHICO, Calif. (AP) - Those who had fled a deadly Northern California wildfire were looking for answers at an evacuation center when Sheriff Kory Honea walked in. They jumped to their feet, clapped and cheered.
The Butte County sheriff came to watch a recent briefing by a state official, but as the public face of the force fighting the flames and bringing relief to those who lost everything, he's a star attraction.
"He's become larger than life," said Paradise Councilman Michael Zuccolillo, who stayed behind to help Honea evacuate the town of 27,000 as flames roared in Nov. 8. "He's enormously popular."
Internet memes describing Honea as a hero are sweeping social media, including one saying his "calendar skips April 1 because nobody fools Honea." Residents of the predominantly rural and Republican-leaning region post hundreds of comments of support on the sheriff department's Facebook page. National and international media outlets clamor for interviews.
The 48-year-old was already a well-liked and high-profile figure among many of the 220,000 residents of Butte County, a wooded region in the Sierra Nevada foothills that's a destination for hunters and fishermen about 175 miles (282 kilometers) north of San Francisco.