As the flames ripped through Butte County communities, including Paradise and Magalia, some residents might have been forgiven for thinking of themselves. But the stories told on Friday, a day after the Camp Fire prompted evacuations, show only selflessness and caring.
Holly Hogan was helping neighbors' get their animals to safety when she herself was forced to evacuate — on horseback. She says that, after loading trailers and evacuating horses, she stayed in Paradise, thinking that her neighbors would return.
But “the road closed and they could not get back to me,” Hogan said. “So, I had to leave and cross the road block to get to them. When I looked back, I could see the fire coming.”
The Gridley Fairgrounds south of Chico are keeping dozens of horses, goats, and sheep. High school students and adult volunteers have been caring for the animals, unloading feed and hay dropped off by a steady caravan of people.
Artemis Young is the lead for the North Valley Animal Disaster Group. She says donations have been coming in at all hours.
"It's extraordinary. We are so blessed and so grateful to have people in the community rallying around the people are under an extraordinary amount of stress and dealing with devastation," Young said.
Jill Anchordoguy is a social worker for Butte County and is helping with shelter operations for 150 people. It's one of seven shelters, three of which are full. She's lost count of the number of stories of people rescuing others as they evacuated.
"I met a family last night — a lady, her husband and they had two little kids. They were running down the road and a RV pulled over and said, 'Jump on in,' and took them to the neighborhood church in Chico," Anchordoguy said.
As she spoke, Gridley resident Branden Heskett and his family walked up carrying bags of blankets and deodorant.
"Today our community is a little bit bigger, so we just want to do what we can to help," Heskett said.
Theresa Malsack is with the California School Employees Association union and was also at the shelter. She was looking for employees in her union.
"The school bus drivers, the school secretaries, the lunch ladies: We know all our workers are displace,” she said. “So we're looking for them because we have emergency humanitarian funds available for them. It's not a loan. It's money we raise for them in times like this."
Cal Fire estimates 40,000 people left their homes in Butte County on Thursday.