As news of the devastating Camp Fire dominated the media this week, several residents in Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley felt compelled to help in any way possible.
By Wednesday, Cal Fire reported 48 deaths and three injuries because of the fire in Butte County. The fire, which started on Nov. 8 in Paradise, has destroyed at least 135,000 acres and remains only 35 percent contained, according to Cal Fire officials.
While not initially sure what to do, Scotts Valley resident Rick Thomas knew he had to do something to help the people of Paradise, most of whom lost everything, in what is now being called the most “destructive blaze in California history.”
Thomas decided to turn to social media to rally the Scotts Valley community to assist with providing donations to send to victims of the Camp Fire. On Friday, Thomas posted on Nextdoor Scotts Valley, a private social network for neighborhood communities, “Hello neighbors, I can’t sit by and not do something for the fire victims in the Paradise/Chico area. Saturday morning (Nov. 10) I’ll be at the Scotts Valley Safeway parking lot with my truck and trailer. Please help and donate whatever you think you can.”
The next day, Thomas arrived at the Scotts Valley Safeway parking lot and found dozens of community members dropping off bags of clothes, toys, bottled water and other goods. There were so many donations, Thomas’s truck and trailer both were filled within an hour and a third vehicle was brought to assist carrying the overflow of donations.
“I’m overwhelmed with the support from the Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz County community,” Thomas said. After filling up the vehicles with donations, Thomas and his crew drove to Chico on Saturday afternoon. A report posted by Thomas on Nextdoor Scotts Valley stated he arrived in Chico and was able to disburse the donated goods at various collection sites before heading home to Scotts Valley. Thomas also indicated he would be willing and able to make a second trip to Chico with additional items needed such as clothes, new underwear and socks, blankets and gift cards. While Thomas was appreciative of the support, the community was more than appreciative of his efforts.
“Rick, you are kind and giving,” said Allison McLean, of Scotts Valley. “I appreciate that in a person.”
In addition to assisting the several thousands of people displaced by the Camp Fire, one Boulder Creek resident took it upon himself to find a way to be of service to the many animals also impacted by the fire. Kevin Foster, who works as a contractor, also maintains a popular community Facebook group, Boulder Creek Neighbors. Last week he posted on the group’s page seeking donations to purchase grain, cat and dog food, etc. to bring to Chico to assist the horses, dogs, cats and other animals impacted by the deadly fire.
“I was looking for ways to help, when Tina Davey, of KBCZ radio, asked me for a list of places that needed donations. She wanted to broadcast the places to donate on the air,” Foster said. “I have a few friends near the fire who said there was a need for food and blankets for the animals also displaced or hurt in the fire.”
Foster said he received approximately $1,500 worth of donations from community members including
Rhonda Fassbender, of Boulder Creek, and the store Mountain Feed and Farm Supply, in Ben Lomond.
“It overwhelms me; within an hour we had someone give a $250 gift card to the feed store and then another person gave $350 and so on,” Foster said.
On Tuesday, Foster drove to Chico with a truck filled with over a thousand pounds of grain, cat, dog, and goat food and blankets and sheets.
“It tugged at my heartstrings,” Foster said. “The animals also need to be cared for.”
Local first responders, including Scotts Valley Police Sgt. Brandon Polito, also worked to organize efforts to assist people affected by the fire. According to Polito, he posted on the police department’s Facebook page asking for donations that could be taken up to the Chico area. The response was more than Polito had anticipated.
“Two parking spots full of donations were given by the community, including a donation from Earthwise Pets with pet food/supplies,” Polito said. Polito and his 15-year-old son put the donations in his truck and trailer and drove to Chico over the weekend.
“It was just heartwarming, within 12 hours we collected a truck and a trailer filled with donations including clothes, toys, books, cribs,” Polito said. “It was a relief I could participate in some way at all, I saw the magnitude and difficulties of what is happening—and any way we could directly impact it, makes me relieved.”
In addition to local residents finding ways to help those affected in Paradise and Chico, Santa Cruz
County sent a strike team on Nov. 8 to the Camp Fire. Five engines were sent with a leader and an assistant leader. The agencies participating are Scotts Valley, Branciforte, Santa Cruz, Central, and
Aptos/La Selva. Four people were assigned to each engine. This brings the current total to 5,615 firefighters and 630 fire engines deployed to help contain and put out the Camp Fire, which has destroyed 6,522 residences and 260 commercial buildings, according to Cal Fire.
“It is just amazing to see how our community comes together to help people like this,” Foster said.
A few ways to continue to donate to victims of the Camp Fire:
North Valley Community Foundation-Camp Fire Evacuation Relief Fund:
Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org.