Returning Lost Loved Ones

$14,535 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 147 people in 1 month
Created November 13, 2018
Fourteen thousand homes have burned to the ground in the recent California fires.  Most of the residents have nothing left.  We need your help to give them back something precious they lost!

Many families keep the cremated remains (cremains) of their loved ones in their home. It might be temporary, until they go to a final resting place. Or it might be more permanent, as some people find comfort in having them nearby. As the victims of the fires ran for their lives, many did not have time to take the cremains. An all volunteer team of specially-trained canines and archaeologists needs your help to respond and locate / recover the cremains of these loved ones.

Lenore Hanson lost her daughter, Erin, to cancer less than year before the Santa Rosa Fire destroyed her home, taking her daughter's ashes with it. Even though Lenore lost all her possessions, she grieved most for the loss of her daughter's cremains. Lenore told us, “Just the thought of her ashes winding up in a toxic waste dump was more than I could handle.” She is pictured above hugging a team member as we confirmed Erin's cremains were found.

Pam & Nick Rasmussen also lost their family home in the Santa Rosa Fire, along with the cremains of their father and young brother. They are pictured above holding both sets of cremains alongside part of the team that located and recovered them. “Amazing. In a matter of seconds Piper closed a wound that no one else could.”

This service is offered free to the fire victims. Our team members do this on a volunteer basis; your donation will help to defer their costs. Basic expenses (travel, food, and shelter) to search 100 homes for cremains are estimated to exceed $29,000 (and we expect to get many more than 100 requests.) Any unused donations will be reserved for future volunteer responses.  ICF is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization; you will receive a receipt for your tax-deductible donation.

You can also help by sharing this with others, including victims of the fire.  The important information below needs to get to those who need our services immediately, in order to help facilitate the recovery of cremains:
• Do not disturb the area where the cremains may have been.  (We have an over 90% success rate, but only if the site is undisturbed.)
• Protect the area; contact officials and tell them there are human cremains on the site.
• Contact the Institute for Canine Forensics as soon as possible (408-981-7831) to sign-up for assistance.

The Team:
Institute for Canine Forensics  (ICF)
Alta Archaeological Consulting - Professional Archaeologist  (ALTA)
Environmental Science Associates  (ESA) 

News from previous fire responses:
       Forensic Search Dogs Sniff Out Human Ashes In Wildfire Wreckage
       Ashes to Ashes 
      Searching for Ashes Within Ashes -- Dog Teams Hunt for Human Cremains in Wildfire Wreckage 
National Geographic    
        How sniffer dogs find cremated human remains after wildfires
Redding Record Searchlight
       Searching and finding human cremains in ashes of the Carr Fire
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First, I want to say thanks! You all have been so supportive in so many ways, from donations, to wonderful words of encouragement, and shares of our GoFundMe page. THANK YOU! Here's another example of the difference we are making together; this one from the Woolsey Fire.

The team consisted of: 3 dogs, 2 handlers, as well as 1 archeologist experienced in cremains recovery and 3 others new to it. After a morning briefing and suiting up in personal protective equipment (PPE) they deployed to Shepha’s address. It had been an amazing, rustic, stone home before the fire. Now it is nothing but an empty shell, containing her mother, Evelyn’s, ashes.

All three dogs (Piper, Jasper, and Jett) worked a large scent pool independently before alerting. Given a general area, the archeologists went to work. This was an extremely difficult recovery due to soaking rain and the collapsed Spanish roof tiles that covered the area. As layers of debris were removed, the dogs were reworked, getting closer and closer to stronger scent. About 2.5 hours into the search, a pile of creamy pink-colored ash came into view. The dogs confirmed it was human cremains and recovery began.

3 hours after they began, the team presented Shepha with Evelyn’s ashes, including the identifying tag that accompanies the body through the cremation process. Shepha commented that our group exemplified “kindness, persistence and professionalism.” That kind of says everything about what we are all striving for in this effort. Because no one should lose a loved one twice...
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We have almost 100 people still to help, but TOGETHER WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE! Here are the happy details of one recovery from the Camp Fire...

We received a distraught call from Paradise resident, Carol. She had to abandon her car and flee for her life. In the car were her husband’s cremains, computers containing four and a half years of research, and her four live cats. She was forced to leave it all as she was whisked away to safety. She lost everything.

A few days later, Carol was notified that her car had been towed and she immediately went to see what might be left. With the assistance of the tow company owner, Jim, she tried to find the urn. But, of course, it had been consumed in the fire.

One of our handlers, Lynne, asked Jim to send her some photos of the interior of the car. Upon review, she asked for some close-ups of a specific area. She saw what looked like cremains. After seeing the photos our archaeologists, Alex and Michael, agreed.

Another handler, Kris and her dog, Annie, were on their way home after searching all day for those who perished in the Camp Fire. She diverted to the tow yard where Annie quickly alerted, confirming that these were, in fact, cremains. Kris was able to recover the cremains, which also contained a metal disc imprinted with a number identifying the crematorium and the deceased. She also found his military dog tag. The tow company guys were blown away at Annie’s work (and Kris’s too.)

Lynne contacted Carol and asked how her day was going. “Ah, it's okay,” was the sad answer. Lynne said she had some good news and told Carol about finding her husband’s ashes. Upon hearing the news, Carol was ecstatic, weeping in relief.

Our work made one woman very, very happy. Even though she has nothing else, she got back what she wanted most, her husband's cremains.

You can help us bring closure to others who, like Carol, lost the cremains of a loved one. Don't wait for Giving Tuesday! Please help get the word out by sharing this GoFundMe campaign and donating if you can.

Because no one should have to lose a loved one twice...
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People are telling us the cremains of their loved ones are the only thing they want from their burnt-out homes. Our uniquely skilled team is providing our services free to the victims of the Camp and Woolsey Fires. Your donation will help offset the costs to locate and return the most precious thing they lost.

So far, we have calls for help from 87 victims of the fires. One from Larry Aiken's family. He lost his battle with cancer and, as a veteran, wanted a military funeral in a specific location. But the Carr Fire was burning at the time and prevented his family from following his wishes. Larry's memorial service was rescheduled for November, but the Camp Fire recently burned his wife's house, along with Larry's ashes. His daughter said, "I think each day is a new challenge because you remember things that you lost. The hardest thing for me is my dad's ashes." We are going to look for and hopefully return Larry's ashes to his family. https://kmph.com/news/local/central-valley-family-dads-ashes-in-paradise

No one should have to lose a loved one twice. Help us to help these families.
Donate if you can, please share our campaign, and thank you for your support!
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$14,535 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 147 people in 1 month
Created November 13, 2018
Funds raised will benefit:
Institute for Canine Forensics
Certified Charity
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Woodside, CA
EIN: 943282103
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