With California’s deadliest, most destructive wildfire raging in neighboring Butte County, local governments and the residents of Sutter and Yuba counties are stepping up to do all they can to assist–from standing side by side with CalFire crews and others on the fire line, to comforting evacuees and organizing relief efforts for fire victims.
Fire fighters and law enforcement personnel–sheriff’s deputies, police officers, and probation officers–from Yuba and Sutter counties were dispatched mutual aid not long after the fire began last Thursday morning. Ambulances and crews from Bi-County ambulance were dispatched to assist in the evacuation of patients from the Adventist Health Feather River hospital and other medical facilities in Paradise. Yuba County sent emergency management officials to help out in the Butte County Emergency Operations Center. Sutter County Public Works road workers were dispatched to assist with traffic control.
At the request of Butte County, Health and Human Services staff from Yuba and Sutter counties overnight Friday jointly opened a shelter for evacuees at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds. Small animals are accommodated on site by Yuba Sutter Domestic Animal Assistance, and a large animal shelter has been established by the Sutter County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse at the Sheriff’s Posse Arena. The shelter population swelled to more than 380 over the weekend.
There have been many larger fires in California, but none as deadly, or destructive to homes and businesses. As of Tuesday morning, the California Department of Forestry reported more than 6,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed, most of them in the Town of Paradise, Butte County’s second largest city. Incorporated in 1966 after its population swelled from 5,000 to 20,000 in the years following World War II, most of Paradise has burned down.
The official death toll as of Monday night was 42. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea described how 13 teams of law enforcement officials, including some from this area, are combing through the fire areas in search of fire victims. More than 200 people were still considered missing.
Some 52,000 people throughout Butte County have been subject to mandatory evacuations, and shelters have been opened in Butte and surrounding counties. Most evacuees are with family or friends or staying in motels.
No sooner had the fire started than individuals and organizations from this area began looking for ways to help. Some helped rescue animals. Habitat for Humanity agreed to act as a conduit for cash donations to assist evacuees. A call for diapers and towels for the shelter drew ample donations. A collection point for donations developed in the parking lot at New Earth Market in Yuba City.
Sutter North provided, at no cost, a doctor and medical assistants to conduct medical exams and provide prescriptions for evacuees at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds. The Salvation Army is coordinating feeding the evacuees–with the help of local service groups like Kiwanis–and already has meals planned out through Saturday.
There was a steady stream of donations of pet food and bedding for small animals at the Fairgrounds and larger animals at the Sheriff’s Posse Arena.
The response for donations is so overwhelming that, at this time, we’ve asked residents who want to make donations to either donate cash through Habitat for Humanity in Marysville, or drop off a gift card from any store at the New Earth Market collection center. Most donations of things–especially used things–wind up not getting distributed in a disaster. Donation management takes a great deal of effort. But gift cards provide flexibility and can help now and as fire victims rebuild in the months and years ahead.
Butte County officials are directing monetary donations to the North Valley Community Foundation website: https://www.nvcf.org/fund/camp-fire-evacuation-relief-fund/
You should also consider the American Red Cross. which has been providing disaster relief for more than a century, and which runs the Safe and Well website that allows people to report they are safe in a time of disaster.
The list of organizations and individuals who have been helping out in this disaster will be extraordinarily long, and always incomplete. Their efforts are not going unnoticed. Gratitude for our community’s response to the disaster in Butte County was expressed personally on Monday by Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter and Butte County Administrator Shari McCracken. They toured the shelter with Sutter County Board Chairman Dan Flores and Sutter County Administrator Scott Mitnick, along with Yuba County Supervisors Andy Vasquez and Doug Lofton, and then went to the New Earth Market donation collection site and personally thanked the volunteers.