California wildfires: Communities pitch in to help their neighbors

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NAPA COUNTY, Ca. — It’s the flicker of hope that burns among the ashes of Northern California’s wildfires.

For the more than 20,000 who fled the Valley and Butte fires, much has been lost.

But, to them, much is also being given.

Sophie Lauterborn calls it a “tsunami of generosity.”

She lost her home in Middletown to the flames. A friend is putting her up.

The greater community has rallied around the victims, with both material and emotional support.

“I tell my friends, I haven’t seen anyone crying alone,” Lauterborn said. “I find a lot of resilience, fortitude and kindness.”

At the fair

Nowhere is the community’s outpouring more evident than at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga.

It’s home to an estimated 1,200 people. Many have little more than their cars and the clothes they’re wearing. It’s a tent city.

Bill Djernes, his daughter and his young grandson only had 10 minutes to escape the fire.

“So many people didn’t expect this to happen and even then once it started you thought, ‘oh no, no, no this isn’t real,'” he told CNN affiliate KGO. “You know, you either had to run or die, so we ran.”

The people in this makeshift community need the same things folks anywhere else would need: food, clothing, medicine, baby formula, even pet supplies.

The Red Cross and people from the area are meeting most of the needs.

Patricia Trimble said she had to help. She was a victim of last year’s Napa earthquake that did so much damage.

“People didn’t turn their backs on me,” Trimble told KGO. “I won’t turn my back on them.”

A quick cool down

Firefighters in Northern California have to like Wednesday’s forecast — a good chance of rain and temperatures in the 60s.

It should provide some welcome relief to the 7,500 battling the wildfires that have charred some 140,000 acres over the last week.

By the time the weekend comes, the forecast dries out and temperatures return to the 90s again.

Making progress

Even without the help of the weather, firefighters have been gaining ground.

The 67,220-acre Valley Fire is 30% contained.

The Butte Fire at 71,780 acres is 40% contained.

Keeping the faith

Back at the fairgrounds, volunteers are serving up food and distributing clothes. Musicians are hosting impromptu jam sessions.

“We’re just here to try to bring hope and encouragement, just a place for people that are kind of downcast right now,” said Dave Henderson.

Lauterborn said, despite losing her home at 69 years of age, she’s not about to give up.

“How’s the town going to recover?” she said, repeating the question she was asked. “I don’t know. Spirit, you know, the American frontier. That’s the theme right there.”

Providing funds

The Lake County Office of Emergency Services is asking those who want to help to consider making monetary donations through the Lake County Local Assistance program. Your donation will go directly toward fire recovery efforts.

Redwood Credit Union has established the Lake County Fire Victims Fund. All of the donations will go directly to aid victims and relief efforts in Lake County communities.

Finding victims

The American Red Cross has a “Safe and Well” website where evacuees can register to let their families know they are safe. If online access is not available, you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Social media helping animals

Many victims are turning to Facebook groups to locate and reconnect lost animals to their owners. Here are a few:

PET Lost and Found for Lake County Fires