Efforts to collect needed clothing, food and supplies to help residents in two nearby counties displaced by a raging wildfire have taken off, several loads of items already delivered.
As of Monday night, the Butte Fire, which had grown to over 71,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties, was at 30 percent containment, with many evacuations still in effect and dozens of buildings burned. Several thousand structures were still threatened. Some evacuees had been allowed to return by Tuesday afternoon but many were still displaced with no word on possible damage to home and property and no estimate on when they would be allowed to return.
Local collection efforts to help the fire victims and those on the front lines are being done throughout the region, with everything from baby food and clothes to fresh socks for firefighters to cases of water, animal feed and more being collected and delivered.
A collection barrel has been placed in the front office of The Oakdale Leader – Escalon Times – Riverbank News office to collect items, which will then be delivered to the affected area.
On Sunday, local residents Jo Harris and Michelle Smith were stationed outside Raley’s on East F Street, loading a trailer with donated supplies that Harris and her husband, Matt, delivered later that afternoon and, on Monday, local Family Support Network staffer Karen O’Bannon was getting ready to take a delivery of items as well.
Me and My Feet, at 143 N. First Ave., Oakdale, is another collection site with everything from flashlights, batteries, pet carriers, pet food, sleeping bags, hygiene products and more being collected. Coloring books, crayons and diapers are also needed.
Another Oakdale Donation Station has been set up at the Save Mart Center parking lot and will accept donations on Saturday, Sept. 19 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Items sought there include canned food, boxed items, pasta, peanut butter, canned meats and more, with the donations slated to benefit the Butte Fire victims through the San Andreas Resource Connection Food Bank.
Also being sought, through the Red Cross, are monetary donations to help that organization replenish supplies and help run the shelter sites for evacuees.
“The American Red Cross has established a public information line for inquiries from the public regarding Red Cross services during the Butte Fire. The number to call is 925-588-6678. The phone number is being staffed by a Red Cross volunteer. If you get a busy signal, we ask for your patience and to call back,” said Lilly Wyatt, Director of Regional Communications with the American Red Cross Gold Country Region.
There are three emergency evacuation shelters established by the Red Cross for victims of the nearby Butte Fire. They include the Good Samaritan Church, 4684 Baldwin St., Valley Springs and Jenny Lynn Veterans Hall, 189 Pine Street, Valley Springs, both in Calaveras County and, in Amador County, the shelter is at the Jackson Rancheria Hotel and Resort, 12222 New York Ranch Road, Jackson.
“We appreciate the good intentions of people who want to donate items, but financial donations are the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most,” Wyatt added. “The Red Cross isn’t equipped to handle a large influx of donations such as household items, clothing or food that may or may not be useful to victims as it takes time and money to store, sort and distribute donated items. If community members still like to donate goods, we recommend they contact other organizations in their community and inquire if they are accepting donations.”
As multiple loads of donated goods have already been taken from the tri-city area of Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon, including several over the weekend, Wyatt said everything helps, but the Red Cross benefits most from the cash donations.
“Financial donations allow us to be flexible in the help we deliver and ensure that we can provide what disaster victims need most,” said Wyatt. “Donating is simple, just call 1-800-Red Cross or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.”
Founded in 1898, the Gold Country Region of the American Red Cross serves 4.4 million people in Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba counties.
“The scariest rescue we have ever experienced,” noted Jeannine Etheridge, president of Oakdale Equine Rescue, explaining a rescue she and co-workers handled in the fire region. “When we got to the turnoff on Jesus Maria Road near Mountain Ranch they just closed the road but the deputy allowed us to go in but told us to hurry.”
She said they were able to load a few horses within five minutes and get them out, safely getting them away from the smoke and fire. Among the horses was that of a board member for the organization.
“We could hear the roaring of the fire behind the house and ash the size of your hand falling everywhere. We are so thankful we were able to get all four horses out and safe with us,” Etheridge said. “We have taken in four more horses from the Angels Camp evacuation center, two of which were adopted out a year ago and we spotted them there. We are taking horses in and getting them out of harm’s way as their owners await the news on their homes.”
Etheridge said those wanting to donate to help pay for feed for the horses can visit the website, www.oakdaleequineresvue.org, for more information and to donate.