Nevada County community rallies to help Jones Fire victims |

Nevada County community rallies to help Jones Fire victims

Jones Fire victims Amy and Chamba Cooke found out that their home had burned down in the most public way possible — from a reporter while being interviewed on TV.

“We’re trying to be philosophical about it,” said Amy Cooke Friday from her daughter’s home in Southern California. “We’re just starting to figure out the next steps — we’re adjusting to a completely new reality.”

The Cookes, who live on Tasha Road next to the Woolman School property, were ready to go even before they heard the high-low warning siren at 5:30 a.m. Monday. They are among a handful of people who now know they did lose their homes in the Jones Fire.

As of Friday morning, the fire was 25% contained at 705 acres, and six residences had been reported destroyed, Cal Fire states.

“We haven’t been cleared to go back yet,” Amy Cooke said. “We will come back when we can. We’re just going to start cleaning up and sifting through (the ashes), to see if there is anything there we can recover.”

The Cookes’ daughter, Nora, on Thursday launched a GoFundMe that already had raised more than $16,000.

“My parents have loved living in Nevada County for the past 20 years and in their beautiful Innisfree (named for the William Butler Yates poem) for the last 15 years,” Nora Cooke wrote. “Working at Woolman at Sierra Friends Center (also devastated by the Jones Fire), owing and operating Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli, actively creating and supporting community in Nevada County in every decision, they poured so much love and energy into creating spaces where every one felt not only welcome, but truly seen.”

According to Nora, her parents only agreed to her creating the page with the understanding that once their needs are met, they will be donating any excess funds to others in need.

So it will come as no surprise that the Cookes already have given to a GoFundMe organized for another resident displaced by the fire, Hilary Ellis-Lavigne.

“We have to support all of us,” Amy Cooke said, “That is what is so extraordinary about where we live — it is a community where everybody supports one another, and stands by each other.”

Stormy May, a Rough and Ready resident who founded, said Ellis-Lavigne was the first person she thought of when she heard residents of the Jones Bar area were being evacuated.

“You do what you hope someone would do for you if you needed to evacuate,” May said.

Ellis-Lavigne was in the middle of packing to move out of her home of 14 years, she said. Faced with an emergency evacuation order Monday morning, she left it all behind, other than birth certificates and passports.

“That was it,” she said, citing the loss of her father’s childhood rocking horse as a particularly crushing blow.

Starting a fundraising page for Ellis-Lavigne seemed the logical next move, May said, adding, “I knew she didn’t have insurance — obviously, she’s going to need a new place to live.”

May initially set the page up to raise $2,000 and received support worldwide after she posted it on her organization’s website. The GoFundMe currently has raised nearly $6,000.

“We didn’t know how much to ask for but you have surpassed our hopes and are making it much easier for Hilary to get a new start,” she wrote on the website. “Definitely keep the donations coming if you feel so inspired. … I showed her the totals when we were at $820 and she was sitting, exhausted on the steps of the trailer she’s in temporarily, speechless at the willingness of not only old friends but also total strangers, even from as far away as Sweden and Australia, to help.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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