Even as firefighters finally gain the upper hand on the devastating Butte and Valley fires, efforts to aid those displaced and those who have lost everything in the wildfires continue.
We have seen local residents start impromptu drives, seen organizations launch large-scale collections and many have taken loads of goods – for impacted residents, animals and firefighters – to the evacuation centers and food banks themselves.
The Butte Fire has gotten most of the attention here in our local communities, as it is just ‘up the hill’ into Calaveras and Amador counties.
It’s good to know that, when disaster strikes, our local citizens take ownership of the situation and jump in to help out. One woman, in fact, responding to a need she learned of while helping deliver a load of goods to the Calaveras County Fairgrounds, literally gave the shoes off her feet. She took off her Size 11 slip on shoes for a woman who wore that size, a woman who had been evacuated and had no shoes to wear.
The wide-ranging local collection effort is similar to one that was, incredibly, already two years ago in August, when the Rim Fire impacted a wide area.
As of press time this week, the Butte Fire in Calaveras and Amador counties had burned over 500 homes and a total of more than 800 structures. It grew to more than 70,000 acres and there were confirmed reports of two deaths. It was 72 percent contained as of Monday afternoon and residents that had been evacuated were finally being allowed to return home as the evacuation orders were lifted. For some, that brought additional anguish, as they discovered ‘home’ was no longer there.
The Valley Fire in Lake and Napa counties was officially declared the third worst fire in California history, having burned more than 1800 structures and ravaging nearly 76,000 acres. It was at 70 percent containment on Monday.
Making a donation to those in need serves a couple of purposes. In terms of these fires, these disasters, providing food, blankets, some water – all of which can be had for just a few dollars – is a concrete way to help make a difference. Not only does that aid people in getting back on their feet, it empowers us to know that we can help. Red Cross gratefully accepts cash donations, as they look to meet a variety of needs, from providing housing and clothing vouchers to making sure the evacuation centers have food and some comforts of home for evacuees.
People’s lives have been turned upside down. There’s no way to convey the magnitude of that with just a few typed words on a newspaper page. Photos can help but even they don’t do it justice. Until you have stood with the smell of burning embers assailing you, seen families picking through what is left of their charred home looking for something – anything – that remains of their former life, be it a photo that somehow escaped the flames or a favorite stuffed animal for their child – it’s hard to understand the enormity of the loss.
If you are able, we urge you to make a donation to one of the many collection points in our communities, or provide a cash donation directly to the Red Cross. There are plenty of ways to help and plenty of people in need. We are collecting items in our Oakdale Leader-Riverbank News-Escalon Times office in Oakdale and will be making a trip soon to deliver the items. You can drop them off here during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we will make sure they get to the fire victims to help in the recovery process.