The Dixie Fire has been burning for just over a month across four different Northstate counties, leaving thousands with nothing but the clothes on their back. Survivors say since evacuating, they've bounced all across the west coast, some going as far as Nevada and Oregon, to seek refuge.
"It's terrible. It's hard to breathe and everything. I just wish it'd be over for everybody," said Taylorsville resident Susan Schuster, while sitting in her car with husband John Schuster in Quincy on Sunday.
"We're not in control of our lives now. It's up to whatever happens," adds John.
People like the Schusters have been allowed back to their homes, mostly unaffected beside the debris that now blankets their towns. Others are not as lucky.
"We are staying at the Gold Pan [Lodge]. We have a room there until Wednesday. We have to be out Wednesday. And they have no open rooms right now," says Greenville resident Mary Smith, sitting in her car close by the Schusters after losing her home in the blaze earlier this month.
"So the plan really is-- you're going to figure it out after Wednesday?" asks KRCR. Smith dejectedly responded, "yes."
Schuster and Smith were three of hundreds of survivors waiting in line for a helping hand Sunday morning. A resource giveaway, held by Global Empowerment Mission (GEM), brought these survivors from across the west coast to the Les Schwab in Quincy.
The giveaway was an effort that transcends Northern California. GEM President Michael Capponi and Unlimited Carrier President Steven Masilionis coordinated an 18-wheeler truck full of resources be delivered to the small forest town from Florida. More impressively, it was all within a day's notice before the truck left the sunshine state, combining with the resources gather by community members to create an inventory of $250,000 worth of supplies.
"It was a one-day notice," says Masilionis. "In this case, we were able to help, to deliver the load within three days from Miami, Florida to Quincy."
Tents, air mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, food, gas and gift cards, even phone chargers: it's what evacuees are lacking and could receive free of charge. Capponi says these were the needs expressed on social media and by community leaders. GEM then worked to collect the necessary donations.
"Try to imagine you got evacuated and you're basically living in your car if you don't have a tent, and let's start from there," says Capponi.
"People are living in their cars right now, families. They come in and when we donate donations to them, they're on their laps all the way to the ceiling of the car," says Berry Creek United's Frank Martinex, one of the handfuls of organizations that came together to collect donations locally. The nonprofit was joined by the likes of Paradise Gleaners and E&J's Mobile Kitchen.
"How important is an event like this for somebody like you right now?" KRCR asks the Masbury family, in line for the event after losing their Greenville home earlier this month.
"Really important," responds Melissa Masbury, "especially when you don't have the money to go out and buy stuff."
While it may not fix everything, the event was a moment survivors say humanizes them in the wake of a dehumanizing situation.
When asked what they hoped to receive from Sunday's event, John Schuster responds, "a step forward. Going back to the way life was."
"All the donations make us feel like we're still human beings."
Those looking to donate to this cause in the Northstate can do so through GEM's website, or by dropping off new and unused items to the following locations in Paradise:
- Paradise Gleaners Wearhouse - 1245 Oro Dam Blvd. #10 Oroville, CA 95965
- E&J's Mobile Kitchen (when open) - 7655 Skyway Paradise, CA 95969 (new and unopened items only while following COVID-19 guidelines).