Funds, spirits raised for Caldor Fire survivors

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

It became apparent to Food Bank of El Dorado County staff April 30 they would have to postpone the groundbreaking for a county emergency resource center.

Around 500 residents from Grizzly Flat attended a food bank event Saturday that aimed to support Caldor Fire survivors. It was an evening of food, live music and coming together at the food bank’s Shingle Springs headquarters. The idea was to break ground on the emergency resource center after the event but distractions led all in attendance to focus on something more important — one another.

“It was nice to see all of these people here — neighbors and friends, who I haven’t seen in a long time,” said 63-year-old Gina Greene, previously a 27-year Grizzly Flat resident. “The fire devastated everyone but the love and heart this community shows is what makes it great.”

The Food Bank of El Dorado County raised $80,000 while the El Dorado Community Foundation matched that donation in full for a total of $160,000 donated to all victims of the Caldor Fire at the event. Those who were not in attendance can still pick up their donation through the foundation, said food bank Executive Director Mike Sproull.

“We just want to help (Caldor Fire survivors) since they lost everything and we are not going to let them be alone,” Sproull said. “(The food bank has) all the infrastructure and resources so we’re a perfect fit. We’re just gonna help people.”

The emergency resource center will be located just across the street from the food bank and will house resources in case of another countywide disaster, according to Sproull. The approximately 2-acre site was acquired by the food bank in 2012.

“We’ll have everything from water tanks to extension cords and cots,” Sproull said. “The fire victims needed different things and we are going to house items that, from what we learned from the Caldor Fire, people will need in an emergency that we weren’t prepared for previously.”

Kim McPherson, administrator for the food bank, said the resource center will also have a full kitchen and an area to shelter people.

“It will be what the community needs to have these resources available right here,” McPherson said. “We got everything approved and now it is just a matter of getting it going.”

McPherson predicted about a year of construction and resource gathering before the center is operational.

Susan Taylor, 69, whose family has owned a now-burned, 500-acre timber ranch since 1910, complimented the efforts of the food bank to help Caldor Fire victims.

“This is going to help my family,” Taylor said. “It was wonderful to see all the people who I lost in the fire, many who had to leave and move or have nowhere to live.”

Many businesses and nonprofits showed up in support of the survivors. Babette Mullen, a South Lake Tahoe resident, handed out tree seedlings to Grizzly Flat residents.

Mullen, who is retired and an avid gardener, has been distributing the seedlings she received from the U.S. Forest Service to community members to plant in the areas burned by the Caldor Fire.

“I am honored to be able to help as many fire victims as possible,” Mullen said.

Kicking off the Caldor Fire survivor event were speeches from local pastors and elected officials District 2 Supervisor George Turnboo, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, Congressman Tom McClintock and El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini.

“This fire was horrific,” Turnboo said. “These last two fires that we had in the county, the King Fire and the Caldor Fire, absolutely destroyed about 60%-70% of our national forest and it devastated a community in Grizzly Flat.”

Turnboo praised the work of D’Agostini, local churches and the food bank for their response to the Caldor Fire disaster.

“It really has been a great thing to see everybody come together as one,” Turnboo said.

Turnboo, who has been on the forefront of the fight to get the county individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after its denial, told event attendees he met with approximately 60 representatives from both FEMA and the California Office of Emergency Services who were in Grizzly Flat last week assessing the devastation of the fire firsthand.

“I spoke. I touched their hearts and they said they were going to do whatever they could to try and help you,” Turnboo said. “It touched my heart to see all these people come together to see the devastation from what happened in Grizzly Flat. I wasn’t expecting it.”

Turnboo went on to criticize the federal “let it burn” policy regarding wildfires that in recent years are growing bigger and more destructive.

“It has got to go away,” Turnboo said. “We need good forest management and we need to bring logging back to our county.”

The crowd applauded Turnboo’s words.

“I think it is a great thing that all those local politicians came to speak to us and to support us,” said Somerset Post Office employee Jon Buck. “I just hope everything they are promising will come to pass. This community does need help.”

The food bank will announce a new date for the emergency resource center’s groundbreaking.

Supervisor George Turnboo shared words of encouragement with approximately 500 Caldor Fire victims April 30 at the Food Bank of El Dorado County's fire survivors support event.
Mountain Democrat/Eric Jaramishian

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