Donate To This Program
Volunteer For This Program

California Wildfire Relief

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 and assisted with interior home rebuilds.

Initially, our California Wildfire Relief program responded to the 2018 Camp Fire, one of the deadliest and most damaging wildfires in California’s history, . The wildfire incinerated the town of Paradise and swaths of surrounding foothill communities in a single day. 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.

As our year-round California Wildfire Relief Program continues, we are pleased to share that the program is expanding – both geographically and in terms of services performed. Our reach this year includes areas affected by the 2020 North Complex Fire, which borders the 2018 Camp Fire burn scar. The North Complex wildfire burned in August 2020 and was not fully contained until December 2020. It was the deadliest fire that year and sixth largest in California’s modern history. The wildfire damaged nearly 2,500 buildings and injured over 100 individuals.

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 initially 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. 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.

Due to the broad scope of work, we decided to launch a new kind of program. A core component of this 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 and rebuilding homes affected by the fire. We increased the scope of our mitigation efforts through tree planting and creating fuel breaks. In early October 2021, approximately 1,000 trees were planted in 2 days in partnership with Stihl in Oroville, California and Memorial State Park, Oregon.

In March 2022 we restarted our year-round wildfire mitigation and relief program in California. This year we are extending our reach to support those affected by the 2020 North Complex Fire, which borders the 2018 Camp Fire burn scar. The deadliest fire in 2020 and sixth largest in California’s modern history, the North Complex Fire culminated 21 unique fires and devastated an estimated 318,935 acres. This is the equivalent of an area over one and a half times the size of New York City.

This program is focused on increasing the resilience of a community to a disaster by completing mitigation activities. This will involve continuing our sawyer training program, which has helped increase the capacity of our organization by building a team of trained sawyers. Our mitigation projects will include but are not limited to, widening evacuation routes and the construction of defensible space – the buffer around a home to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and hazard tree removal.

The latest group of volunteers arrived in early March and began training in chainsaw work by our certified staff. This capability creates a valuable skilled labor force for local mitigation projects run by our partners, Butte County Fire Safe Council and Paradise Recreation & Park District. Some of this season’s projects will involve new applications of chainsaw skills to buffer communities from fires on a house-by-house basis.

In tandem with the ongoing sawyer training, our team is hard at work supporting the community of Berry Creek. In March, work included removing fire hazard trees that prevent rebuild efforts, making the land safer for homeowners to access. These felled trees are then put into piles to streamline the removal process from our partner at Butte County FireSafe Council.

Alongside the sawyer training program, we have been busy connecting with partners in Butte County. In the last week of March, team members attended a California Fire Safe Council workshop and networking event with the aim to build connections and identify opportunities to plug our volunteer labor force and project management expertise into local wildfire mitigation projects.

Current Activities

Our second cohort of volunteers finished their four week commitment of service in early May, having successfully completed their sawyer training and contributed many hours to our mitigation projects. The teams have been busy felling and removing hazardous trees that may fall on structures or harm people, with a total of 575 trees felled since the beginning of 2022. Additionally, progress continues with projects on a number of residential properties creating defensible space by removing fuels around areas where people plan to rebuild, piling up the organic debris to be removed by Butte Fire Safe and widening sections of road that provide critical wildfire evacuation routes to rural communities in the area.

Alongside local partners and Butte Fire Safe Council, we are proud to have supported the expansion of the pre-existing recreational area of Crain Memorial Park, helping to reduce the risk of future wildfires. Situated close to the point of origin of both the Camp Fire and Dixie Fire, the park has been near unusable for the local community since 2018. This has been particularly damaging for the local Maidu Tribe who use the area for their cultural events. Our work at Crain Memorial Park consisted of piling up organic debris that pose a fire hazard to construct 77 burn piles which will be burned later in the year using the Biochar method which AHAH took part in earlier this year; removing invasive flammable weeds and removing hazardous tree, felling a total of 30 trees.

Program Spotlight: BioChar Workshop

Butte County Fire Safe Council conducted a BioChar training workshop for the team. Biochar is the product of burned organic material that promotes better forest regeneration once inoculated. It is also one of the cleanest methods of burning potential fuels due to the minimal amount of carbon produced.

The workshop taught the team proven alternative approaches for treating forest fuels on-site while providing long-lasting carbon for soil improvement and carbon sequestration. Making BioChar in the woods uses clean and almost smoke-free techniques. BioChar left in the woods improves the forest’s soil water holding capacity and resilience.

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.

In the spring of 2021, we piloted our chainsaw training program in Paradise, California. Trainees created fuel breaks, defensible spaces and removed hazard trees from residential properties. In total, they felled 534 hazard trees and cleared 11 acres to create a fuel break. Due to the fall’s high-risk wildfire season, the team stopped chainsaw operations and were instead building new homes to replace those that were destroyed. Using fire-resilient strategies like double-paned windows and fire-resistant siding the team worked to create a more resilient community. In addition to constructing stronger homes, the team planted indigenous, fire-resilient trees to rehabilitate scorched land. In the final month of the program, our team was hard 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. In partnership with Hope Crisis Response Network (HCRN) and Habitat for Humanity, we completed eight home rebuilds in Paradise and nearby Magalia by the end of December. We wrapped up the first phase of our California Wildfire Relief Program in mid December 2021.
Donate To This Program
Volunteer For This Program
Lives Impacted
Jobs Completed
Rebuilds and Repairs
Volunteers
Volunteer Hours
Acres Cleared
Fuel Break Trees Felled
Lives Impacted
Jobs Completed
Rebuilds and Repairs
Volunteers
Volunteer Hours
Acres Cleared
Fuel Break Trees Felled