Delivering Love to CZU Lightning Complex Fire Survivors in Last Chance

Northwest  |  December 23, 2022
Tzu Chi volunteers in California’s Silicon Valley check in on the individual situations of CZU Lightning Complex fire survivors, providing comprehensive assistance for diverse family needs. Photo/Andy Chiang

Written by Christina Chang
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

“Every volunteer at the free clinic is meticulous and kind. After receiving the treatment, I also received a hug from the dentist, which was so heartwarming. I really appreciate Tzu Chi’s help,” said Priscilla Dawn Stevens, a CZU Complex Fire survivor, as she stepped out of the Tzu Chi clinic. Tzu Chi volunteers accompanied Priscilla from her home to seek dental services here, while enjoying the easy conversation with one another.

In the summer of 2020, the CZU Lightning Complex fires broke out in Northern California, and the Last Chance community was all but consumed by the terrifying disaster. Tzu Chi volunteers in California’s Silicon Valley came into contact with community residents during the emergency relief and cash card distributions that followed. Then, they began to offer long-term, in-depth care to help community residents rebuild their lives. In 2022, Tzu Chi volunteers became more active once again in establishing case-by-case care for survivors of disasters, providing timely, comprehensive assistance to families with diverse needs. This included donating two brand-new fireproof containers, offering drought care, providing free medical consultation services, and visiting community members.

Meeting Community Needs

Susie Devergranne thanks volunteer Andy Chiang for Tzu Chi’s donation, glad for the timely delivery of fire-resistant storage. Photo/Judy Liao
Tzu Chi volunteers from California’s Silicon Valley assist in donating two fire-resistant containers for Last Chance community members as a local storage space. Photo/Judy Liao

Susie Devergranne, her husband, and their 16-year-old son borrowed a small trailer and a tent from a friend to settle in temporarily. Due to the geographical location, there was no network signal, and it was sometimes challenging to communicate with others. Susie nevertheless became a gateway to help Tzu Chi volunteers contact the community, passing on messages from families and community needs.

In Last Chance, local residents have undertaken virtually all the post-disaster reconstruction work, and Susie requested donations of two containers as public storage spaces on behalf of the community. These flame-resistant storage containers would also help protect items from damage in case of another wildfire. With this, Tzu Chi volunteers completed the purchase of two containers without delay, personally delivering them to the Last Chance community.

I am really happy to see the containers that we have been working hard to acquire for over two months are finally delivered, because these two containers allow community residents to store important community equipment when it is particularly difficult for external resources to reach their living places.

Looking at the two new and fireproof containers, Susie expressed her gratitude to the Tzu Chi volunteers. Qizhen Huang has been accompanying community residents from post-disaster cash card distributions, to mid- and long-term reconstruction care. He was very pleased when he saw that the fireproof storage had arrived in the community and could provide two fire-resistant public spaces for the residents.

Qizhen Huang ha ayudado a la recuperación de los residentes en el corto y mediano plazo
Tzu Chi volunteer Qizhen Huang has accompanied Last Chance community residents from emergency distribution in the aftermath of the wildfire, to mid- and long-term reconstruction support efforts. Photo/Judy Liao

Tzu Chi Free Dental

Priscilla, a local resident and fire survivor, receives care from a Tzu Chi dentist. Photo/Judy Liao
Priscilla explains how she was able to rebuild independently. Photo/Andy Chiang

Priscilla Dawn Stevens has lived in the Last Chance community for decades. In 1986, she and her husband spent seven years building their home, which was scorched by the 2020 fire. She told volunteers that all the building materials were made from nearby trees, but the wildfire burned down the main house and six surrounding structures. 

Priscilla still maintains an optimistic attitude toward life after the disaster. She personally assembled a mobile home, wooden balcony, solar power generation system, and well water extraction. She even drove a tractor to clear roads, prepare the soil, and more. 

However, there was one thing Priscilla needed help with. Upon learning about her tooth pain, the Tzu Chi volunteers who came to care for her immediately arranged for her to visit a free Tzu Chi clinic in Milpitas for dental treatment. After nearly three years of not seeing a doctor, Priscilla was very grateful to the medical staff for their assistance.

“We not only helped her treat her teeth,” explained Stephanie Wang, a volunteer clinician in charge of Priscilla’s dental checkup. “After understanding everything she had experienced physically and mentally in the two years after the disaster, we also gave her a little psychological comfort and let her know that we are with her.”

Every day, I drop some change into the bamboo bank, which has been full recently, and I had to open the lid to put more change in. Today, I received my new bamboo bank. This means another fresh start; it’s amazing.

The support behind Tzu Chi’s services, such as community care and free clinics, comes from the loving power of individuals worldwide, gathering an individual’s love into a collective force for relief. Knowing the origin of the bamboo bank, She was happy to give back and keep the momentum going.

Hope For the Future

Terra describes the challenges of staying in a tent, which is hot during the day and cold at night. Photo/Judy Liao
A smile appears on Terra’s face as she thanks volunteers for their assistance. Photo/Judy Liao

Terra Barsanti has lived in the Last Chance community for nearly four decades. After the CZU complex wildfires impacted her home, she experienced a series of significant losses, including that of a loved one, good friends, and a beloved canine companion. Despite all of this, however, she shared gratitude for everything she has in life and has hope for the future. With mutual help and care from the community, she and her son decided to work together to rebuild the family home. The rebuilding process was made trickier due to the more remote area. Yet, Tzu Chi volunteers learned that the most urgent assistance Terra needed was to resolve a dental problem. Although she has retired from teaching and has insurance, she still has to pay more than $10,000 at her own expense after deductibles, which is quite a hefty financial burden. Due to the delay in medical treatment, her dental situation impacted her eating. As such, Tzu Chi volunteers quickly arranged for her to receive treatment at the Tzu Chi Clinic in Milpitas and made another appointment the following month. Terra expressed gratitude to the volunteers for not only providing post-disaster recovery assistance, but also further care for her physical and mental health, saying, “I am really grateful to have your help, and I am very impressed with everything Tzu Chi has done for me and the community.”

Tzu Chi volunteers bring laughter to Last Chance community residents. Photo/Andy Chiang
Priscilla accumulates change in a bamboo bank every day to ultimately be donated. Photo/Andy Chiang

Disasters may not have mercy or compassion, but people do. And together, we can continue to deliver hope and strength to the communities we serve. Help empower us with the resources to do more.

More News Stories