Volunteers Extinguish Struggle After California Wildfires

Northwest  |  February 24, 2022
In Crescent Mill, California, a damaged cabin stands still unrepaired by winter after a wildfire in the summer of 2021, its former occupants having to find different living arrangements. Photo/Tzu Chi Chico Tea

Written by Cody Chan
Translated by Pheel Wang
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska 

In the small but beautiful town of Crescent Mill, California, Tzu Chi volunteers set up in the early morning on a Saturday in December 2021 for a winter aid distribution. The support provided was long-term disaster relief following a wildfire that ignited that summer, yet whose survivors were still struggling to recover; they would bring aid to another town on the following day.

The Dixie Fire started over five months ago, on July 13, 2021, consuming over 950,000 acres of land and forestation by December of that year. Many survivors were still out of a job and even homeless with no permanent place to live, suffering enduring harsh conditions. Thus, they were ready to brave the cold to seek aid as they did between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on December 18, 2021, when Tzu Chi held a distribution event at the Greenville Resource Center. Snow was piled up on the sidewalk outside as they ventured inside, eager to dry their shoes and get warm.

Tzu Chi volunteers had organized the distribution event in collaboration with Lara Wheeler of Rebuilding Greenville Resource Center. The volunteers also met with Nancy Presser, case manager at Plumas Rural Services, and a Dixie Fire survivor herself. These kind-hearted angels went above and beyond to help with the relief effort and were an excellent liaison for the Tzu Chi volunteers leading this aid mission.

Lara Wheeler and Nancy Presser liaised with the Tzu Chi team to help organize the distribution event in Crescent Mill. Photo/Tzu Chi Chico Team

The Tzu Chi team spent the day handing out eco-blankets made with recycled plastics and cash cards loaded with relief funds to hold the Dixie Fire survivors through one of the toughest times in their lives. The funds would help address their current needs, and they could rely on the blankets throughout the winter to help keep them warm and safe from the plummeting temperatures. 

Coming to receive Tzu Chi's long-term disaster relief, a Dixie Fire survivor and care recipient has reason to smile. Photo/Tzu Chi Chico Team

The next day, on December 19, Tzu Chi volunteers traveled to the former mining town of Oroville, California, to bring relief to those in need there. Wildfires have also ravaged this area repeatedly, including the North Complex Fire that destroyed 2,400 buildings and homes in Northern California and lasted from August 7 to December 3 of 2020. This disaster is one from which many people are still struggling to recover.

Frank Martinez, the president and co-founder of Berry Creek United, had organized this distribution event in collaboration with Tzu Chi, aiming to spread holiday cheer and relief before Christmas. Everyone prepared to receive the care recipients outdoors on Lakeside Market & Gas premises, where wildfire survivors could come and get food, clothing, holiday toys, and more. 

Wildfire survivors in need can receive food, clothing, toys, and Tzu Chi’s signature eco-blankets at the winter distribution in Oroville on December 19. Photos/Tzu Chi Chico Team

For its part, Tzu Chi provided its signature eco-blankets, while our volunteers offered their attentive care and a listening ear to all who stopped by. The boxes upon boxes of blankets the Tzu Chi team brought were still not enough for all the families who came seeking assistance. 

Although the Tzu Chi team brings piles of blankets for distribution, they run short due to the number of families who come. Photo/Tzu Chi Chico Team

Tzu Chi’s Disaster Case Manager, Baba Kauna Mujamal, reported that the wildfire survivors were most grateful to see Tzu Chi again. “The moment they saw who we were, there was a complete change in demeanor. Our presence meant more to them than just another blanket,” he recounted.

A man holds up his eco-blanket, happy to see the Tzu Chi logo on it since this is not the first time many at the distribution are receiving Tzu Chi’s assistance. Photo/Tzu Chi Chico Team

During that December weekend before Christmas 2021, Tzu Chi volunteers handed out over a hundred blankets and $12,600 worth of emergency funds to wildfire survivor families in need.

A care recipient leaves the distribution site in Oroville stocked up on food, blankets, and more. Photo/Tzu Chi Chico Team

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