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Caldor survivors call on Biden to keep word

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat
Grizzly Flat resident Candace Tyler shares her experience as a Caldor Fire survivor in a video released by El Dorado County as part of a media campaign to appeal to President Joe Biden to override FEMA's decision to deny individual assistance.
Provided

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — El Dorado County has not given up its mission to obtain individual assistance for Caldor Fire victims from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The county released a video Tuesday, May 17, meant to appeal to President Joe Biden on keeping his word to help residents get FEMA support after the Caldor Fire tore through more than 221,000 acres of county land, destroying more than 1,000 structures and leveling much of Grizzly Flat in south county.

FEMA denied the county individual assistance Oct. 8, 2021.



With county leaders’ previous efforts to overturn that decision not seeing results, supervisors on Feb. 8 voted to create a media campaign to send a message far and wide that shows the extent of residents’ needs.

“FEMA denied our residents individual assistance that could greatly help with temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured shortfalls for personal property losses, medical and dental costs, mental health services, food, clothing and other needs that would help our residents recover from their losses,” states El Dorado County Communications Director Carla Hass in an email sent out to members of the media.



The video shows the blaze at the height of its destruction, the devastation that followed and the accounts of two Caldor Fire survivors who talk about the struggles they face.

Grizzly Flat resident Candace Tyler shares that she is living in a travel trailer in her brother’s front yard in Placerville. Tyler found it “near impossible” to get homeowners insurance in a rural area such as Grizzly Flat and she was not insured.

“Now we live in a logging clear cut. That’s where we live now and this is our everyday life,” Tyler tells the camera as she is filmed on the scorched land where her home once stood.

Tyler explains that there is no electricity to her property and without that her well system cannot supply water.

Another survivor, Tobi Magdison, owned a two-story home where he with his family before the wildfire destroyed it.

“We lost every possession we owned that we couldn’t take out,” Magdison states.

Caldor also took a shop the Magdisons’ used for their business.

“If we had FEMA assistance, we would at least be able to start building a home to have somewhere to live,” Tyler states. “Otherwise our daughter, who is 14, may not have a home until she is 18.”

Biden arrived in California Sept. 13, 2021, to assess Caldor Fire damage.

The video includes a clip of county Chief Administrative Officer Don Ashton showing a PowerPoint presentation on Caldor Fire impacts to Biden, telling him about 25% of the roughly 440 Grizzly Flat homes that burned were not insured.

When Ashton asks, “What are we going to do?” Biden responds with, “We are going to take care of them.”

Biden has not taken action yet, discouraging the south county community.

“We feel like we are helpless right now,” Tyler shares. “We could use all the help that he can get us.”

“We need the president to keep his word that he made to Grizzly Flat residents,” Magdison adds. “Unfortunately at this point right now that has not happened.”

The video, shared on the El Dorado County Communications YouTube channel, shows footage from ABC 10 of Biden stating there “is a lot we can do and it starts off being a federal responsibility in my view.”

With other communities in and outside of the state receiving individual assistance from FEMA during wildfire season, Magdison finds that Grizzly Flat residents feel like they are the “forgotten ones.”

Tyler lists catastrophic wildfires where the affected communities received FEMA assistance — the Dixie, Colorado and the Camp fires — where the aid was initally denied but ultimately given.

“Why are we any different?” Tyler asks.

Magdison insists Caldor victims should have RVs, potable water and power generators, among other resources, but they do not.

“I appeal to you President Biden,” Magdison states. “I appeal to your heart. I appeal to that kid from Scranton — keep to your word. Keep to your promise you made.”

District 2 Supervisor George Turnboo, whose area of representation includes Grizzly Flat, also appears in the video, stating that displaced residents have resorted to sleeping in their cars, or the couches of friends and family.

“They have nothing left,” Turnboo said.

A lot of the Grizzly Flat community were seniors on fixed income and veterans and about 40% of the community either did not have insurance or were under ensured.

“We need to help them any way we can, so please Mr. President, honor your word,” Turnboo said.

The full video can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=xJz_Zn-pnD0.


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