Protecting Camp Fire Survivors from the Threat of COVID-19

Northwest  |  March 31, 2020
Photo by HuanXun Chan

Written by HuanXun Chan
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Dilber Shatursun

At about 1 PM on March 19, Tzu Chi’s Bobbie Rae Jones sat at her computer thinking about a video conference that had just ended. During the Camp Fire Mid- to Long-Term Recovery Program meeting, participants reflected on how the COVID-19 pandemic would impact those still recovering from their socio-economic losses since the Camp Fire.

Now the spring of 2020, it’s been a year and four months since the fire that infamously burned down the entire town of Paradise, CA, took place. Many of those who survived still remain without permanent shelter. Even those in more secure situations with trailer homes have limited medical and health resources in the rural areas of this part of Northern California.

Bobbie Rae is the disaster case management supervisor at Tzu Chi’s Camp Fire Recovery Program. She explained that her team was working hard to help those most vulnerable, with no housing and living in areas razed over by the Camp Fire. A few days prior, snow fell in the neighboring cities of Magalia and Concow, and the temperature dropped just below freezing in nearby Chico. Bobbie lamented their situations.

I live at home with showers and water heaters, but most of the residents we serve don't even have a home. They need our help desperately.

A Camp Fire survivor’s temporary home. Photo by HuanXun Chan

As the new coronavirus pandemic continues, Bobbie believes that it is even more important to quickly protect residents living amid such harsh conditions and with limited resources. Bobbie Rae assuringly said, “I’m determined to protect our staff, and continue to encourage everyone to continue helping Camp Fire survivors.”

Three weeks ago, Bobbie Rae and her colleagues arrived at work and began disinfecting the doorknob to her office. She then went to the storage room and sprayed alcohol on the paper towels to disinfect the entire office space.

But, when California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a Stay-at-Home order on the evening of March 19, Bobbie Rae and her colleagues rushed to the office for important files and equipment to take home. They would begin working from home the very next day, and they hope to continue to meet the needs of the people who need the extra help to move forward.

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