California’s Wine Country is still in a state of emergency as over a dozen wildfires burn through neighborhoods, homes, wineries, and the countryside across Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Yuba counties. The fires have destroyed at least 5,700 structures, burned over 217,000 acres and caused at least 41 fatalities.
While a total of around 75,000 North Bay residents have been evacuated, some folks have been allowed back in their neighborhoods to discover the damage done. Tragically, many find nothing but ashes and perhaps a fireplace still standing. A lucky few return to find their home safe and unscathed.
Many of us Californians, feel the devastation in our hearts if not in our homes. Libby and I have spent much time over the years in the Wine Country, and Yosemite which has been ravaged by fire this year, as well as Calistoga, which was evacuated due to the fire danger. So many memories are burned up now! Too many people hurting and missing. Places Libby and I have been going to all our lives together have burned or are in danger of it.
We are going up there near Yosemite this Christmas and hope it will be all covered in snow so we don’t have to see the devastation. 🙁
How You Can Help
You’ve probably seen countless news articles and information on how you can help the victims of the fires. But most of them are typically like this article, 8 things you can do for California’s Wine Country right now, which talk about donating to the Red Cross, collecting clothes or starting a GoFundMe campaign. Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing any of those things. But, we have found some (what we think is) very good advice on social media, directly from survivors of fires in the past.
The one caveat is that what follows have been shared and reshared many times, so we can’t verify the origin of the information. Only that it makes sense to us. As noted, we copied and pasted right from the post on Facebook.
Some advice from a victim of Lake County fire a few years ago:
(Shared from a friend! PLEASE SHARE & COPY/PASTE!)
This is very helpful advice from a friend’s friend who lost everything in the Lake County fires a few years ago.
As a victim of Wildfire, I can advise on how you can help these people get through this “moment” for now. My life was rocked and you all saved our lives by helping us which I shall never forget and will always be grateful. See below, this is real, coming from experience.
*First of all, house them, feed them and take care of them. They need it…badly.
- Do NOT donate to Red Cross. See below.
Ask yourself…who are they and what do they need? Here it is.
- Pick a family, their people, and Make a bag specifically to their size(s) Include 3 each of pants, shorts, shirts long and short sleeved, toiletries, socks and underwear. Shoes are so important. Pack comfy sweats and or Jammie’s. They need to be comfortable. Please don’t send them bags to sort through, it’s part of the trauma-really. Give them a suitcase or bag that’s specific to them. Just give them good stuff that they can wear now.
- Send your best stuff that YOU would want to wear. Not your garage sale stuff. These items will be what they wear for the next several months. As they realize what has happened to them shopping is not an option, doesn’t matter and they will wear what is given.
- Set up a Gofundme page for those that you know that are affected and push it. It’s what got Gary and I through our nightmare being able to buy what we needed.
No Red Cross or Salvation Army-the Money is not given to the people. I was given a shovel, tarp and cooler. They need immediate supplies.
Sending love, support and prayers for all. We can hold these people up like you all did for us. Thank you and please share. ????
Here is the perspective of another survivor of fire trauma.
Bay Area people copy/paste to share:
This came from a someone who was a victim of the 1991 fire:
I’m reading up on the devastation of the Napa and Sonoma county fires. This is now the worst fire in the history of Northern California. Formerly the #1 (now comes 2nd) is the Oakland Hills fire in 1991. Unbeknownst to many except a few friends in my circle I, along with my 3 other UC Berkeley roommates, were victims of that 1991 fire when our apartment in the Northside near the Caldecott Tunnel burned down. Reading this made me remember what I did back then to help fire victims such as myself. If you know anyone affected by the fire please advise them to:
(1) Contact their insurance companies. Most will cover hotel stays, apart from the usual coverage.
(2) Call their credit card companies and have the last 3-6 months of their purchases reimbursed back (get a police report that testifies you are a fire victim).
(3) If you are renting and are a minor, your parents’ home insurance may cover your belongings (this is how I got my stuff reimbursed through my parent’s home insurance even if they lived 300 miles away at that time).
(4) Call your chain retail stores and see what they can offer to fire victims (I remember GAP gave away free clothes to fire victims up to $500 per person…yes my roommates and I were like walking GAP ads bed literally that was all the clothes we had).
(5) Get as many resources and information as you can and keep passing the info around. You will see the kindness of strangers and the familial treatment of friends.
My prayers to anyone you know affected by this devastation.
In response to the Facebook story above, another personal experience was shared:
I have been through 2 fires, losing just about everything both times. The outpouring of help was just about all I could stand. One of the challenging things was when people would say “everything happens for a reason” or “when one door closes another opens,” or my favorite “it was Gods will”.
Really, you just want to rip the face off that person. It denies the fact that we are in pain, grief, shock right now. They do it because the pain they see is so uncomfortable they want to fix it (bless their hearts).
Really and seriously don’t say anything and let the person go through it. If they need holding, silently hold them and don’t let go till they do. If they want to rant and rave and talk sh*t about anything, just listen. This is not about you. You can take care of you later. Look up Holding Space for people if you find the urge to say such things.
We thought it was important to share these perspectives with you, and we hope you’ll keep them in mind as you do your part to help out in any way you see fit. The recovery process will take months, if not years, so there will be plenty of time and opportunities for you to take part. We just hope you will put yourself in the shoes of the ones you help, be empathetic, and know that any gesture, however small or large, is making a big difference in the lives of our fellow citizens.
If you are so inclined, please share this article with your friends, family, and on social media. If you have something to say or have more information on how to help the victims of the Northern California fires, please share them on our Facebook page.
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