In the two months since the Aug. 4 River Fire burned 2,619 acres, destroyed 54 homes, and damaged nine others in Nevada County, the community raised over $260,000 to help wildfire survivors.
Donations to the Nevada County Relief Fund came from over 600 generous local donors, businesses, and community groups, including $50,000 from the Placer Community Foundation.
“Together, we’ve rallied to support our neighbors who lost their homes. Our community didn’t hesitate for a moment to support the River Fire survivors,” said Leo Granucci, co-chair of the Nevada County Relief Fund’s Community Advisory Council, in a press release.
Community leaders stepped up to raise funds in a myriad of creative ways. The Nevada County Professional Fire Fighters donated $3,104 that they gathered in a boot at the Nevada County Fair. The Greater Alta Sierra Neighborhood Watch Group organized multiple yard sales to raise over $3,000.
“We have a caring community, and our group was happy to rally around a good cause,” said Watch Group Coordinator Jolly Lawson.
Many local businesses donated to the wildfire relief fund, including Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply.
“We were very pleased to help support the Nevada County Relief Fund with a $7,000 donation following the River and Bennet fires. We offered a seed pack sale to our national customer base with 100% of proceeds going to local fire relief efforts, and they responded to help our community here in a big way,” said Peaceful Valley’s president, Bill Hageman.
Nevada County recognized the need to help devastated households recover from their losses and partnered with Connecting Point to provide case management services to River Fire survivors.
“‘Connecting Point’s River Fire Navigators’ have been working one-on-one with nearly 50 households to walk them through the recovery process, including applying for Nevada County Relief Fund monies,” said Tim Giuliani, executive director of Connecting Point.
The navigators reviewed applications to the Relief Fund and recommended eligible applicants for funding. They have also helped survivors navigate the county, state and federal rebuilding processes, connected them with all available resources, and provided a physical place to print, fax, email, and copy documents needed to hasten their recovery.
“We’ve spoken with so many people who needed funds to help replace prescription eyeglasses, bedding, clothing, kitchen items, shoes, et cetera, and they are so appreciative of the Relief Fund,” said Sarah Eastberg, Connecting Point’s navigation and employment services manager.
Sarah Eastberg shared some of the stories and appreciation she and her navigator colleagues have heard since the fire:
One resident did not have time to gather anything before she had to run from her home, as her driveway was blocked by flames. She ran into the river with one of her dogs and waited for help. The Relief Fund will help her purchase a trailer to live in during the rebuilding process. With the help of her navigator, she has obtained legal assistance and is in the process of registering with FEMA.
Another River Fire survivor left her home in flip flops and lost everything. She moved her family into a trailer, but there was no space for her large dogs. The Relief Fund has helped pay for dog kennels and some household items.
An additional recipient fled her home without her dentures. No other agency besides the Relief Fund would cover the cost to replace them.
A resident who raises pigs lost her pig enclosures in the fire. When she learned that the Relief Fund would pay for new pig pens, she said, “This could not have happened at a better time. Three of my baby pigs broke out of the burnt fence and I was chasing them around for three hours.”
And several shared their gratitude: “I wanted to say thank you for getting our deposit and first month’s rent covered! That is incredibly helpful!” and “I wish there was a way we could show more appreciation for what you guys are doing for us.”
Supporting the survivors with their recovery will take time. With winter coming, Connecting Point Navigators expect to draw on the Relief Fund to help survivors buy winter clothes, jackets, and boots. Many survivors are anxious to return home but must wait until the debris removal process is complete, the soil has been tested, and their property has been cleared as no longer hazardous and dangerous. The navigators have spent a lot of time being a listening ear and managing the expectations of folks who thought they would be back on their land or rebuilding by now.
“Our navigators have walked with survivors through every step of the very long process so far,” said Eastberg. “They have shared in people’s excitement in recovery as well as their frustration, sadness, and bewilderment as their own personal loss begins to weigh more heavily. We are looking forward to continuing through their journey of rebuilding over the next few years and providing clarity and peace to a very complicated process.”
Nevada County residents impacted by the River Fire can dial 2-1-1 (or 1-833-342-5211) to speak to a Connecting Point Navigator and explore the support available.
About the Nevada County Relief Fund
The Nevada County Relief Fund was created through a partnership between Nevada County, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, the Sierra Business Council, Center for Nonprofit Leadership, and the Economic Resource Council.
The fund was established in April 2020 with a $100,000 “challenge grant” from the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Since then, the Relief Fund has raised $1.3 million to help dozens of small businesses and nonprofits countywide. Last August, the Relief Fund raised over $30,000 for Jones Fire relief efforts.
Source: Nevada County Relief Fund