Wildfire recovery – Your conference responses, part 2

April 28, 2022 | by Steve Elliott

Wildfire recovery – Your conference responses, part 2

Note: This is the second of three articles about current wildfire recovery involvement by the Cal-Nev Conference. For more information, contact Steve Elliott, Disaster Response Coordinator, at UMVIMCoordinator@calnevumc.org. Click here to access the first article. 

The 2021 Dixie Fire was the largest single fire in California history, burning an area larger than the State of Rhode Island. It was the first known fire to have burned across the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It burned 963,309 acres and destroyed 1,329 residential and commercial structures across five counties (Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta, and Tehama).

The small towns of Greenville, Crescent Mills, Canyon Dam, and Indian Falls were virtually wiped off the map. This fire started in July 2021 and burned for three months. The total cost of exceeds $1.15 million. Among the losses was the historic Greenville United Methodist Church.

Dixie Fire Recovery

Involved from the earliest days of the fire, the Susanville, Quincy, Portola, and Chester churches offered evacuee support right away. Cal-Nev Conference and local church volunteers staffed at several Local Assistance Centers and provided thousands of dollars of relief assistance to evacuees and survivors. Our initial assistance also included two grants of $10,000 each, one from UMCOR and one from the Conference Disaster Response Fund.

Our High Sierra Circuit churches (Quincy, Portola, Greenville, Susanville, Taylorsville, and Chester) have all been actively involved, including donations to the Greenville Resource Center. The food pantry at Susanville UMC continues to be a key survivor resource. The Taylorsville church sponsored and hosted holiday dinners and offers a second food pantry. Quincy and Portola have been the key players in our survivor follow up.

The Cal-Nev Conference is now participating in the Long-Term Recovery Group, the Dixie Fire Collaborative. Becky Stockdale, Pastor of the Quincy and Portola Churches is a leader on the Spiritual and Emotional Care Task Force. Given extensive survivor needs, we envision participating as one of the funders in the Unmet Needs Committee that launches in June. We will also be providing volunteer construction teams when that program starts later this year. This long-term recovery is expected to last four or five years.

While most of the aid we provide is for critical essential household necessities, one of the unique things about our involvement is caring for the children who lost their home. Part of this support, we have been giving away a book, Where’s My House? Written after the 2020 Creek Fire, this book provides social-emotional support for children who lose their home in a wildfire.

As with all such disasters, we wonder what each survivor’s “new normal” be? Mostly uninsured and with modest means, what will recovery look like? Unknown for many families, but your Cal-Nev Conference is committed to helping where we can.

Steve Elliott serves a the California-Nevada Conference Disaster Response & UMVIM Coordinator (Director).