Barriers slow a return to norm for Camp Fire survivors |

Barriers slow a return to norm for Camp Fire survivors

Keith Dew gets a kiss from his dog, Tinka, on Tuesday at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds.
Photo by Chris Kaufman

Mikki McCrary spent Tuesday afternoon visiting with his neighbors and feeding treats to his dog, Roade.

A former Paradise resident and Camp Fire survivor, McCrary is among the dozens of new residents who are living in 40 trailers at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds in Yuba City, while working to write the next chapter of their lives.

It’s not an easy process. Being in an emergency trailer park can be taxing.

“We’re supposed to be searching for work and permanent housing, but some of us don’t have cars, cellphones or the resources,” he said. “Getting a place is difficult because they want the first three months of rent and your monthly income has to be at a certain level. I have the money, but I don’t have a job so I keep getting denied.”

There are always questions about the future for the survivors.

The trailers, with kitchens, bathrooms, electricity and basic amenities, are being provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for at least six months. That period could be extended for up to 18 months according to Dave Dillabo, CEO of the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds.

That means the fairgrounds staff has to adjust.

“It’s impacted our operations, but we’re going to make it work because we want to be here for our community in good times and bad.”

Dillabo said there are between two to three events every weekend at the fairgrounds and the fence FEMA put up a couple of weeks ago, along with a gate monitor and having California Highway Patrol personnel at the site, helps keep things safe.

“We have an area over by Garden Highway that’s designated for the guests who are living there and that’s the area we agreed to in the contract with FEMA,” he said. “Before the fence was put up, we had some people who would come on to the fairgrounds. We have the Aero STEM Academy school that’s here and events all the time, so we have to make sure things go smooth for everyone.”

Lorraine Marchant, a former psychotherapist, walked around visiting with neighbors before returning to her trailer with her dog, Baby.

“Sometimes, we feel locked out from the world and that can make things difficult,” she said. “I’m going to the library regularly to look for housing, but it’s difficult and I wish there was WiFi here at the fairgrounds so I could look for housing in the RV.”

She’s grateful for the trailers, but is also concerned for the psychological well-being of others living in the impromptu community.

“We have a lot of elderly and disabled people who can’t go to the library and who don’t have access to resources,” she said. “They’ve taken care of our physical well-being, but I’m concerned for our psychological well-being.”

A FEMA representative declined to comment for this story.

Chris Kaufman writes for the Marysville Appeal Democrat. He can be reached at

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