CHICO, California ― In Chico’s East Ave Church, Pastor Ron Zimmer and his close-knit congregation are sheltering around 250 people who fled the wind-driven Camp fire last week.
Before the fire swept through the region at the rate of one football field per second, the evacuees lived just 15 miles west in the small city of Paradise and its surrounding forested towns. Now, they’re among the 26,000 people displaced by the inferno. As of Monday morning, the fire had taken 77 lives, and almost 1,000 people remain unaccounted for.
One of several shelters in Chico, East Ave Church has orchestrated much-needed medical care, regular hot meals, and clothing and other material donations for the hundreds of displaced evacuees, who often don’t have family nearby. Some people can’t access hotel rooms or rented homes and many are disabled.
It’s no easy feat, Zimmer said, but with the help of nearly as many volunteers as evacuees, he is doing his best to help survivors from the fires find some comfort. East Ave Church prides itself on being “a place to belong,” he said.
Here are some of the evacuees, nurses, business owners and volunteers from neighboring towns who have found their way to East Ave Church.
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Jenavieve Hatch, a HuffPost reporter from Sacramento, is reporting on the scene in California this week with photographer Cayce Clifford, talking to people affected by the Camp fire. Some of them, like Paula Levitt, are people she’s known for years. Some she’s meeting for the first time.