As news of the devastating Camp Fire broke, residents in San Benito County worked to help in any way they could. Since Nov. 8, the fire has destroyed more than 153,000 acres, according to Cal Fire. The fire is 100 percent contained as of Nov. 26. What is being called the nation’s deadliest wildfire has killed at least 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings. Over 200 people are reported missing.
Hollister resident James Reid wanted to do something to help the people of Paradise, the Northern California town wiped out in the Camp Fire.
Reid started to receive donations after he put out a call on social media for clothes, pet supplies and household items. He then delivered the supplies to communities affected by the fire.
“We had guys from Paso Robles all the way up the Central Coast loading things up and taking items,” Reid said. “I met people I’ve never seen before.”
Reid said he had assistance from the 3 Percent United Patriots, a militia group he belongs to with chapters throughout the country.
“I’m truly amazed by the support and donations coming,” he said.
Reid and his crew departed for Butte County on Nov. 16 with four trailers loaded with donations. He made a second trip Nov. 21 to deliver eight Thanksgiving dinners to families in need.
In addition to assisting thousands of people displaced by the Camp Fire, Dana Aviles of Hollister also delivered a trailer loaded with supplies for victims last week.
“Originally, I didn’t plan on making the trip myself, I was just going to collect a few items and pass them on,” Aviles said.
That all changed once she posted on the What’s Going on in Hollister & San Benito County Facebook page.
“I was so impressed with what people were bringing and received so many wonderful items,” Aviles said.
Some affected by the Camp Fire were former San Benito County residents.
Susan Rider of Magalia, just north of Paradise, spoke with BenitoLink last week. She and her husband Tim, a former Tres Pinos resident, moved up above Paradise last year. Rider said when she woke up the morning the fire started she could see red plumes of smoke near their residence.
“I sent pictures and videos of the smoke to my husband who was already at work in Chico,” Rider said. Tim rushed home immediately and told Susan to get ready.
As Susan gathered important items and hooked up their travel trailer, she received a frantic call from her husband. Tim wasn’t able to reach her because officials had started blocking access routes to their residence.
“My husband took any route possible, but he finally was able to get home,” Rider said. As the fire raged on, Magalia got a mandatory evacuation at 10 a.m.
She mentioned that the trip down the mountain looked like a scene from the movie Armageddon. She said they were grateful to be able to evacuate and save their home. Some of her family members lost their homes in the fire.
“Paradise didn’t even have a chance,” Rider said.