In last month’s newsletter I wrote about being prepared for disasters, unaware of the Butte fire that would devastate our community, especially in Calaveras County. We continue to pray daily for those affected and also those working diligently to help them. We are thankful to the firefighters, many volunteers, organizations, and businesses that have/are doing so much to help our community work through the devastation. We have been declared a national disaster area, which opens up needed relief to victims of the fire. See below for  the Butte Fire Resources available.

Butte Fire

Because evacuations happened quickly, evacuees had no idea if they would ever return to their home again. Reflecting on this I would like to add more tips on emergency planning.

  1. Important documents, like homeowners, life and auto insurance policy summary pages copied and stored offsite either in the cloud or a safe deposit box. At a minimum have the policy numbers and contact info available. Do the same for all investment assets, bank accounts, automobile titles etc. Personally, we have scanned these documents and stored them in the cloud. Have all of your digital photographs backed up in the cloud as well.
  2. Have a written plan of what you want to take with you in the event you need to evacuate quickly, and an achievable way to do it. Pets, medication, pictures, cash, credit/debit cards, sleeping bags, computers/mobile devices. Pre-plan a place to evacuate to.
  3. Store all important phone numbers and contact information off your electronic devices. In our electronic society, we tend to forget phone numbers and other important contact info. Many smart phones have a cloud backup option.
  4. Keep your homeowner insurance policies and insured asset info up to date. Keep a list of more expensive insured assets off site.

Butte Fire State and Federal resources

Fire assistance: State and government agencies offering relief in addition to nonprofits

FEMA and Small Business relief

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agents stationed in Calaveras County at the Government Center at 891 Mountain Ranch Road, San Andreas from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

People impacted by the fire can call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362. People can also register online at www.disasterassistance.gov.

The FEMA Individuals and Households Program provides financial assistance and or direct services to those unable to meet the needs through other means. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the disaster.

Low interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration are also available. SBS helps businesses of all sizes, private non profits, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

For more information, call SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or visit www.sba.gov/disaster.

Farm and ranch assistance

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will help farmers and ranchers affected by wild fires and has programs to assist with their recovery efforts.

The Farm Service Agency can assist farmers and ranchers who lost livestock, grazing land, fences or eligible trees, bushes and vines as a result of a natural disaster. FSA administers a suite of safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program.

In addition, the FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought. Producers located in counties that received a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation is also available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service can assist producers with damaged grazing land as well as farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who find themselves in emergency situations caused by natural disasters. The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides financial assistance to producers who agree to defer grazing on damaged land for two years. In the event that presidentially declared natural disasters, such as wildfires, lead to imminent threats to life and property, NRCS can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing conservation practices to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

Farmers and ranchers with coverage through the federal crop insurance program administered by the Risk Management Agency should contact their crop insurance agent to discuss losses due to fire or other natural causes of loss. Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers and online at the RMA Agent Locator.

 

When wildfires destroy or severely damage residential property, Rural Development assist with providing priority hardship application processing for single family housing. Under a disaster designation, RD can issue a priority letter for next available multi-family housing units. RD also provides low-interest loans to community facilities, water environmental programs, businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities.

For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA Service Center. To find your local USDA Service Center go to http://offices.usda.gov.

Debris removal

Right-Of-Entry Permits must be filed with Calaveras County Environmental Health Department by Nov. 6 for debris removal on private property. The form is available online at butte.calaverasgov.us and must be submitted to  the EHD at 891 Mountain Ranch Road, San Andreas, CA 95249, or faxed to 754-6277 or emailed to ehmaweb@co.calaveras.ca.us.

Disaster unemployment help offered

Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits are available for workers and self-employed individuals who lost their jobs or had their work hours substantially reduced as a result of the Valley Fire in Lake County or the Butte Fire in Calaveras County.

DUA provides temporary unemployment benefits to jobless workers and the self-employed whose jobs or work hour losses are a direct result of the fires. Affected individuals are encouraged to apply for DUA through the California Employment Development Department. The deadline for filing claims is Oct. 26, 2015.

DUA applies to losses beginning the week of Sept. 6, 2015, and benefits are up to $450 a week for up to 28 weeks.

The assistance will go to a wide range of people, including:

  • The self-employed and business owners who cannot operate their businesses.
  • Workers who have exhausted their regular UI benefits.
  • People who cannot reach work because of the fire.
  • People who suffered an injury in the fire that prevents them from working.
  • Workers whose worksite was damaged or destroyed.
  • Employees of a business that received most of its revenue from another entity that was damaged or destroyed in the disaster.
  • Newly hired workers who were prevented from beginning work.
  • People who became the head of their households because of a death caused by the disaster.
  • Workers who did not earn enough money to qualify for regular benefits.
  • People who were unable to qualify for a regular state funded unemployment claim.

Self-employed people filing DUA claims must provide evidence of self-employment, such as tax returns and business records which can be obtained from banks or government entities, or affidavits from individuals having knowledge of their business.

The fastest and easiest way for people to apply for DUA is to use EDD’s online application, “eApply4UI”, at https://eapply4ui.edd.ca.gov/. Claimants can also file for DUA by phone between 8 a.m. and 12 noon, Monday through Friday at 1-800-300-5616.

Tax relief offered

The California State Board of Equalization announced that taxpayers impacted by the Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties and the Valley Fire in Lake and Napa counties can request an extension to file their returns, relief from penalties and/or interest on some taxes and fees, or to replace copies of records lost to damage.

Tax and fee payers can go online to www.boe.ca.gov/elecsrv/esrvcont.htm#Request_Relief to request relief from penalty and/or interest, and an extension of time to file a tax/fee return. Any tax or fee payer can use the online system to make their request for the tax and fee programs listed below.

If your home is subject to the Fire Prevention Fee and it is no longer habitable, you may apply for an exemption from the fee from Cal Fire.

A natural disaster exemption form and mailing instructions are available online at www.firepreventionfee.org/sra_NDE.php.

Those without Internet access can call the BOE customer service center at 800-400-7115 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

 

Local resources

Red Cross Resources, Donations

There is a dedicated 24/7 Red Cross Butte Fire Information Line for details about and to connect with its available resources at: 925 588-6678. Due to high call volumes at times, you may reach an auto-operator recording after which you may leave a message for a callback. All evacuees, whether they need relief assistance right now or not, are advised to register in-person at a Red Cross center so that future funding and assistance will be available to you, should you need it during the recovery phase. It will also show that you are accounted for as “safe and well.”

The Red Cross continues to emphasize that it welcomes financial donations through its website but cannot process in-kind relief supplies at the evacuation centers. To contribute through its online link, click here.

Many of the Red Cross evacuation centers are suggesting that, in Calaveras County, donations of relief supplies be brought to The Resource Connection (see next paragraph).

In-kind Donations Of Relief Goods

–The Resource Connection (206 George Reed Dr., San Andreas) 209 754-1257. This nonprofit community service agency is open weekdays 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and bins are onsite for weekend drop-offs. The organization says food items must be nonperishable only and please – no glass jars.

Current needs as of Monday include: fruit cups; canned or packaged tuna; canned soup; canned tomato products, such as stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce; rice (bagged or boxed); canned fruit; canned vegetables; canned meats (chicken, salmon); peanut butter and jam/jelly in plastic jars only; “meal in a can” products, such as pork & beans, chili, pasta meals; cereal (cold and/or hot); macaroni & cheese; pasta.

The Resource Connection is also collecting dog and cat food. For other details regarding Animal Evacuation resource information, read on.

–Refuge Angels Camp (642 Murphys Grade Road, Angels Camp) 209 736-2035 The latest, according to Pastor Shawn McCamey, is that they have an abundance of goods, which they are dispersing at six pop up tent locations on the Calaveras County Fairgrounds (101 Frogtown Road, Angels Camp). Through Wednesday, the church will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. for donations (see below for needs). Additionally, he adds that his organization is taking requests and keeping lists of what evacuees might need in the coming weeks. Those with longer term needs may contact him at the church’s main phone number above.

Current in-kind donation needs, Pastor McCamey says, include flip-flops for those using the public showers; the footwear has been hard to come by as it is now out-of-season at some local stores. Because they have so many hard goods, he requests those who wish to donate anything else to please consider supplying gift cards for fuel or groceries, such as from Savemart or WalMart.

–San Andreas Community Covenant Church (261 Treat Ave., San Andreas) 209 754-3881 According to Shirley Holligan onsite, the church is still taking donations of supplies daily through this Thursday from noon until 7 p.m.

Special needs right now include bottled water; lunchmeat and cheese slices in pre-sealed packages only (no deli-paper and plastic wrapped); peanut butter and jelly; snacks in individual servings such as chips, pretzels, nuts, trail mix, bars, pudding, fruit and/or Jello cups. Boxed cereal and crackers are also good, she says.

The church will additionally host its weekly Wednesday night dinner at the town hall from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and is planning to have additional hot meals available.

NOTE: Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys is no longer collecting relief donations.

See below Animal Evacuation entries for additional donation opportunities.

Calaveras County Evacuation Centers

Red Cross Evacuation Center Locations (no pets; no alcohol)

–Good Samaritan Church (4684 Baldwin St., Valley Springs) 209 772-9548

“Good Sam” is currently collecting clothing donations and distributing same to those in need. However, all in-kind donations — except for clothing — should currently go to The Resource Connection (see In-Kind Donations info, above) for processing.

–Jenny Lind Veterans Hall (189 Pine St., Valley Springs) 209 772-9650

–Valley Spring Veterans Hall (8747 Pine St.) 925 588-6694

–Glory Bound Fellowship  (3061 Highway 12, Burson) 209 772-0480 *pet-friendly

–Church of Christ (703 Paloma Road, Valley Springs) 209 772-9553

Other Centers

–Burson Full Gospel Church (3201 Highway 12, Burson) 209 772-9310 According to Joanne Holmquist, one of the site mangers, there is plenty of room, both in cot space as well as for RV or dry camping in tents. The center is Red Cross-registered, is manned 24/7, and has visiting nurses and a doctor, according to Holmquist. As for needs, see below.

Anyone or business with large storage “Connex Boxes” to lend would be welcome, as space for relief supplies is limited and somewhat vulnerable to the weather. Plastic household and business storage containers are also needed. Food-wise, the center would appreciate lettuce, either bagged or in heads, as well as all types of melons as these keep well and are being used to feed evacuees onsite.

–Burson Glory Bound Fellowship (3061 Highway 12, Valley Springs) 209 772-0480 According to church volunteer worker Diann Logan, the center has 18 open cots and camping capacity. Logan adds that the center is manned 24/7 with Red Cross coming by once daily with food and there is also a daily nurse visit. They have plenty of baby supplies to offer in addition to shelter, food, water and clothing. See below for donation ideas.

The center can currently use tarps and tents, including those of the “easy-up” four-pole shade cover kind, as well as plastic storage bins. Food-wise, they request diabetic foods of all kinds. Although they have dog and cat chow, they presently need chicken feed.

NOTE: an evacuation center that was set up at Copperopolis Elementary School closed Monday, Sept. 14

For Those In RVs, Campers, Tents:

–The RV camping grounds at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds (101 Frogtown Road, Angels Camp) says it still has plenty of room for those in RVs, campers, tents, etc. There is no charge for camping and there are full hook-ups and laundry facilities.

Senior Services

Common Ground Senior Services may be reached at (209) 498-2246; Calaveras County Public Health has a plan in place for the senior population. Seniors who are in frail health may get three days shelter, air purifiers and transportation, among other kinds of assistance.

Calaveras County Animals

Small Pet Evacuations

–Calaveras County Animal Services (901 Jeff Tuttle Dr., San Andreas) 209 754-6509; dogs and cats that were left off at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds are now being transported to this location. Do not plan to drop off dogs and cats at the fairgrounds. Several local vets are also helping take care of small pets; call your favorite local vet(s) to inquire what they might be offering and/or what referrals they might be making.

Large Animal Evacuations

–Calaveras County Fairgrounds (101 Frogtown Road, Angels Camp) 209 736-2561

At the fairgrounds “Little Red Bunk House” by the livestock pens, donations of animal feed, medicines, and other livestock supplies are welcome, as are donations of hay (including special horse hay for older horses).

Technically trained volunteers are now being sought. Please call the office for details.

Other Animal Resources and Requests

Dog and cat food donations are additionally being collected by The Resource Connection (206 George Reed Dr., San Andreas). Open weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with bins onsite for weekend and after hours drop offs.

Those who would like to volunteer with animals should contact the Calaveras County Animal Services Office (901 Jeff Tuttle Dr., San Andreas), where morning and afternoon shifts are available. Call 209 754-6095.

The UC Davis Veterinary Hospital in Sacramento indicates that it is prepared for any animals injured in the Butte and Valley fires. The hospital is equipped with state-of-the-art Intensive Care Units for both large and small animals. For more information, call the appropriate number below:

Large Animals: 530 752-0290

Small Animals: 530  752-1393

Amador County Resources

Red Cross Evacuation Center (no pets; no alcohol)

–Jackson Rancheria Resort (12222 New York Ranch Road, Jackson) Red Cross Direct Line onsite: 209 223-8175

Monday afternoon, due a flare-up in the fire around West Point that forced additional evacuations, the center has been busy checking in more evacuees. According to an official onsite, there is still plenty of cot space in the center; additionally, folks can park their cars and sleep with their animals there or pitch small tents; the RV lot however, is currently full.

Amador County Animal Evacuations

–Amador County Animal Control indicates it is still taking in animals at the county fairgrounds (18621 Sherwood St., Plymouth) 209 245-6921. They cannot take any more animal supply donations at this time and instead are directing donors to a gofundme page set up by the Amador County Animal Response Team (ACART).

Russ Brown, CFP®