Within days of the Nov. 8 onslaught of the Camp Fire, numerous affected peoples began to evacuate into the Almanor Basin to escape the inferno.
Some had family or friends in the area, but many just needed a safe haven at the end of their flight.
At the height of the evacuations, it was estimated that well over 150 people were seeking shelter in the Chester/Lake Almanor area alone.
From the beginning, local residents and businesses stepped up to give aid and support to the relocated families.
Local churches, organizations and individuals mobilized to help provide shelter and other immediate needs.
The Lake Almanor Area Chamber of Commerce, with the help of the North Valley Community Foundation, raised over $17,000 for shelter, gas, food and transportation.
With the help of County Supervisor Sherrie Thrall, a special session was held at the Chester Memorial Hall on Nov. 20 regarding additional services that would be available through FEMA, the Red Cross, the Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance & Recovery and the Alliance for Workforce Development.
Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood was there to give an update on the county’s response along with representatives from each of the above agencies that provided extensive information on what aid is available.
About 75 to 80 evacuees listened as each agency or organization in turn explained the extent of their services and the process to best access those services.
Everything from temporary housing funds, transportation, FEMA grants, SBA loans and medical needs to disaster unemployment funds were covered.
One of the main focus points from each of the speakers was the idea of evacuees getting to one of the larger established emergency shelters where there were more immediate services available, especially in terms of medical, special needs and communication access.
The Camp Fire has been deemed the most destructive fire to date in California history, with over 153,000 acres consumed by the fire, almost 14,000 homes and over 500 businesses destroyed, and an estimated 50,000-plus people dislocated.
Local officials stressed that the sheer magnitude of this disaster will take years to address the full extent of the damage and even with all the care and generosity shown by the local community, they simply do not have the resources to do justice to the needs of those affected by the fire.
The support of the Chester/Lake Almanor area is still ongoing with temporary housing transportation help and even a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Lake Almanor Community Church and Mt. Lassen Community Church to provide a bright spot during a difficult time.