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California Wildfire Relief

One of the deadliest and most damaging wildfires in California’s history was the 2018 Camp Fire, which incinerated the town of Paradise and swaths of surrounding foothill communities in a single day. Driven by winds, this fire continued to rage for two weeks and spread further in Butte County. More than two years after the Camp Fire, only about 400 of the 14,000 homes destroyed have been rebuilt, and the community remains at risk from future wildfire destruction. 

All Hands and Hearts launched a Wildfire Relief program in Paradise, California designed to help the community recover, increase the ability to respond to and mitigate the impact of future wildfires. Our team of staff and volunteers initially provided relief by creating fuel breaks, defensible spaces, and removing hazard trees on residential properties. We have now shifted our focus to interior home rebuilds. Sign up to volunteer today!

Notice

COVID-19 Safety Measures

Review our COVID-19 Safety Measures & Updates to learn about the new operational standards we’re implementing on program to safeguard the people in the communities we serve, volunteers and staff.

Our Work

Spurred to act by the intense and widespread wildfires in the western United States, All Hands and Hearts began exploring ways to leverage our volunteer model and project management expertise to assist affected communities. Our Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) conducted on-the-ground assessments of impacted areas and determined that a year-round program would be the most impactful course of action in California. We have partnered with CalOES (California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services) who have helped us to identify and connect with vulnerable communities in need of assistance. The town of Paradise sits at a unique cross-section of wildfire-related needs we identified as within our scope of work; rebuilding more resilient homes and mitigating the impact of future wildfires.

Due to the broad scope of work, we decided to launch a new kind of program. A core component of thise pilot program was our sawyer training program, which has helped increase the capacity of our organization by building a team of trained sawyers. This was All Hands and Hearts’ first program offering the opportunity for participants to be certified in chainsaw operations and our first program focused on increasing the resilience of a community to a disaster by completing mitigation activities. We suspended our chainsaw operations in the summer of 2021 due to the hazards of California’s fire season and instead shifted our focus on rebuilding homes of those affected by the Camp Fire. Alongside the home rebuilds, we have continued our mitigation efforts through tree planting and creating fuel breaks.

We want to give a special thanks to the Butte County Firesafe Council who have been our primary partner in mitigation over the last year.

Current Activities

In partnership with Hope Crisis Response Network (HCRN) and Habitat for Humanity, we have been working towards our goal of completing nine home rebuilds in Paradise and nearby Magalia by the end of December. Our volunteers are at work installing siding, windows, flooring, doors, trim, cabinetry, painting and completing finish work to bring comfort and security back to those who lost their homes in the 2018 Camp Fire.

Although we paused our chainsaw operations, we’ve continued our mitigation work in different ways. Our wildfire mitigation work has been focused on fuel breaks and tree planting. In early October, approximately 1,000 trees were planted in 2 days in partnership with Stihl in Oroville, California and Memorial State Park, Oregon. Despite delays due to severe weather in late September and early October, the team was also able to complete restorations to the town ice rink for Paradise Parks and Recreation.

If you are interested in joining, apply to volunteer with our California Wildfire Relief Program.

Community Stories

“All Hands and Hearts has been a great partner in Paradise as we collectively look to help people keep fire safe. They have a great staff and volunteers who do great work in the community, dropping dead trees that are still a danger 2.5 years after the Camp Fire destroyed our town. Paradise Alliance Church has been able to expand into other communities locally affected by fire-dropping trees since we know that Paradise is in the caring and capable hands of AHAH!” – Steve Bolin, Director of Disaster Relief, Paradise Alliance Church.

Project Spotlight – Tree Planting

Thousands of acres of trees die after wildfires every year, and while our program aims to remove these hazardous, dead trees and push back against the ones on property and town borders, we also want to promote regrowth in the areas impacted by wildfires. Trees provide shade, which keeps areas cooler and slows down the process of organic debris drying out (a key catalyst of wildfires). Trees also absorb carbon dioxide, provide oxygen for us to breathe and are critical for erosion control after wildfires to stabilize the soil with their roots.

We’re proud to work alongside STIHL in its effort to plant 2021 trees to support the recovery of wildfire-damaged state parks in the Pacific Northwest. In June 2021, our team planted 40 trees of various sizes at Collier Memorial State Park in Oregon and Lake Oroville State Recreation Area in California. We look forward to continuing tree planting on a larger scale in the fall. Planting trees is an important first step to restoring and reopening these areas, and we’re excited to be a part of it.

Disaster Profile

While wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, they have increased in size eightfold since the 1970s. In recent years, the fire season (historically May through October) has started earlier and finished later and the annual burned area has grown by nearly 500%. 2020 saw the biggest fire season ever recorded in California’s modern history with over 4.2 million acres burned and over 10,000 structures damaged or destroyed. The climate crisis is considered one of the key drivers of this trend, with ongoing droughts causing dry vegetation and dead trees that are more susceptible to severe wildfires.

Help support our California Wildfire Relief Program by volunteering or donating today.

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