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Burned Out by CA Fire, with Parrots

$20,338 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 197 people in 6 months
Created November 14, 2018
Fundraising Team
on behalf of Sally B
My friend Sally lived near Paradise, California, with her three parrots -- those are their cages above on the right, sticking out of the ashes of her home. On the morning of November 8, a phone call woke her, telling her to GET OUT NOW! It was so dark that she thought it must be before dawn, but when she got outside, she could see that a fast-moving wildfire was already at the far end of her street, and the sky was dark with smoke. Here's the picture she took down the road as she fled:

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She was lucky enough to escape, with the parrots, through jammed-up traffic, and find the last available room at a motel in nearby Chico. Now, she'll need help to fund a search for a suitable long-term home. She is disabled and on a fixed income, and lived in the most inexpensive rented place in the area, but California is an expensive place to live!

The town of Paradise was over 90% destroyed by the Camp Fire, which is, as of November 14, the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California history. More than 9,700 single-family homes are known to have been destroyed so far, and 71 people are known dead. (Here's a Sacramento Bee article about the evacuees of the fire, and here's Sally's own article about her experience.)

Most of the 27,000 former residents of the town of Paradise are also looking for housing, and high rents in this area will go higher still. Sally will need financial assistance to keep herself and her birds going while she searches for a new place to live, which may take some time. To explore some options, she will need to pay for overnight travel, and when she finds a place to rent, she will need at least the first month's rent plus security deposit. And although she carried renter's insurance, she has lost literally everything except the contents of her laundry basket, and the insurance payout is likely to fall short of replacing all that she needs. The proceeds of this campaign will go directly to Sally, who has been designated the sole recipient of these funds.

Thank you for reading! Even if you cannot donate, you can help by sharing this page on social media.
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I'm editing this story to assuage the concerns of GoFundMe that there must be something shady going on here because we've raised so much money so quickly without apparent reference to Facebook or Twitter (although I'm sure some of our donors are also sharing).

My name is Susan Williams. and I am proud to be a registered user of Daily Kos. I know my friend Sally, the subject of this campaign, even though I live in New Jersey and she lives in California, because we are both part of the extraordinary online community there. The reason this campaign has been so very active is that, when we post on Daily Kos that a member of our community is in trouble, people turn out. A scroll through the comment section at this link  should be enough to show GoFundMe the source of this outpouring of activity and love. I predict more love for tomorrow. GoFundMe's other questions are, I think, already answered above.

(Please note that this campaign is an action taken collectively by individual users of Daily Kos and their personal contacts, and is in no way the action of Daily Kos or of Kos Media LLC.)
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For months I’ve wanted to update people who helped me with donations and expressed concern immediately after the Camp Fire, but I kept hitting obstacles. The biggest are (1) how difficult it is to find the right words, (2) my sense that I’m one of the lucky survivors and have no right to feel distress, and (3) how to get in touch with people.

I just learned I can still update the Go Fund Me project so that solved the 3rd obstacle. If I don’t express myself well or concisely, take that as an accurate view into my mental state (obstacle #1). If I gripe about the treated city water tastes too bad to drink (there I just did that) - a luxury problem when other survivors are living in their cars or under a bridge - well everyone’s problems are meaningful and I’m not entered in the Suffering Olympics (obstacle #2).

Here’s my situation.

On January 1st I drove to Seattle and a home friends offered (longterm temporary) that they usually rent out on AirBnB. So I didn't need to find or furnish a house or make any big decisions immediately. This was a huge gift because my decision-making abilities were zapped by the trauma of surviving a catastrophe.

The parrots quickly settled into our new home in a residential area with a front window overlooking a lawn and sidewalk. People walking past often stop to marvel at the parrots and I overheard one woman say to her kids "Here's the parrot house!" The company, Avian Adventures, that manufactures the big cages (that burned in the fire and whose remnants are visible in the photo on my GFM page) sent me one free replacement cage (first new photo added here). The parrots love their view of pedestrians and traffic and are completely settled into a new life blissfully not knowing more upheaval is coming.

We were here in time to relish the unusually warm January weather and then the exceptionally snowy cold February. Now spring has burst into flowers and the yard is unfolding botanical surprises as each new plant emerges from the soil and blooms.

For me, the further I am from the time of the fire, the worse it seems. Perhaps because I'm safe it's easier to face the trauma of losing my stuff, home, community, and in-person connection with friends. I don't miss the stuff (much, it's more an inconvenience). I miss the forest, the paths along the river, knowing the secret spots with the unique flora. I miss the familiarity of my biome and the comfort of having my lifelong friends and my daughter nearby.

Some of the most important stuff has been replaced by friends. I recovered the bracelet Wings made and a friend gave as a gift but it was a shrunken altered artifact (see new photo 2). The same friend had Wings make me another bracelet. My naturalist friends donated binoculars plus a field guide to western birds and a guide to Pacific marine life. Another friend kickstarted my rock collection revival by sending me some rocks from the same place same trip as some I lost (Tonto Basin Arizona) and others chosen specially for me. The friend who made my two favorite necklaces (vanished w/o a trace) is making a new one. To me, these are important steps in disaster recovery. These things and my lost art are the stuff I most regret losing.

I have friends in Seattle and have followed through on some connections but I'm still acclimating to the traffic mess in this massive urban area so I stay close to home. That's okay because home is lovely (see new photo 3 with me outside - the shadow - looking in at the parrots). A small beach on Elliott Bay is down the street to the south and a little collection of village shops (cafe, bakery, bookstore) up the street to the north.

My next move will be to what I hope is a permanent home sometime in the next few months. I'm still deciding what that means. I know it won’t be in a high fire risk area (which means a large portion of WA, OR, and CA) and I’d prefer not to be in a huge urban area (Seattle, Portland, Sacramento). I want to be on the west coast and closer to my daughter and friends in/near Chico CA. The dilemma is that Chico has no open housing.

I want to move back to Calif, but unless some miracle happens Chico isn't an option. Rent prices have increased and the price gouging law that bans raising rents/sale prices more than 10% above pre-disaster prices (unless driven by things like gas prices increased nationally) ends in May. People are being evicted so the landlords can slap on a coat of paint and double the rent. It's all so sketchy and insecure.

My housing search right now is focused on towns near Chico in the Central Valley south to Sacramento. Eugene and Albany Oregon are my second level options. Third level is under consideration.

The reality that I have at least one more move coming up is daunting. I can do it but I wish I knew where and had a clearer vision of how to manage the logistics involved in renting something from a distance, traveling with zero household goods, and then furnishing the basics for a home all the while maintaining 3 parrots and my health. One trivial big question these days is Why do so many homes have 4-5 bedrooms? 

A disaster that wipes out a town and much of the surrounding developed rural area, destroys almost 10,000 homes and leaves 50,000 people displaced has far more impact on each one of those people and the surviving nearby communities than a personal fire at home, or a smaller wildfire.

The diaspora of Camp Fire survivors has affected the housing market north into Oregon and south to Sacramento. Chico City Council has said the town is experiencing the conditions (population, traffic, crime, homelessness) predicted for 2040 but reached that state in one week. FEMA said they weren’t prepared to cope with so many homeless people in a rural area and this is why so few temporary FEMA trailers were available. Really? They'd be ready to house 50,000 people in an urban area with 2% housing vacancy pre-disaster? (FEMA needs a major upgrade as they’ve not done enough for the Pine Ridge flooding in 2019, the 2018 Florida hurricane disaster or the 2017 disasters in Puerto Rico and Houston.)

Yesterday I drove to Discovery Park for a hike and then to Trader Joes for groceries. I didn't need the GPS guidance - I knew the route across the bridge over the Lake Washington Ship Channel and into Ballard. I was confident of finding my way back home afterwards. The Olympics and Cascades ranges were in full view with snow-covered peaks. I felt at home even knowing this isn't my permanent home. I'm a grateful refugee in a comfortable lovely spot with options for my future.
I am thankful for all the people and projects who helped me and who are helping others recover from the Camp Fire.
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I'm moving ahead and planning what is next. I wrote a story for Daily Kos with my new news and a brief description of the post-fire recovery process: My new normal is mundane with exciting opportunities, not catastrophic, THANKS to your help. https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/12/2/1816590/-My-new-normal-is-mundane-with-exciting-opportunities-not-catastrophic-THANKS-to-your-help?_=2018-12-02T14:27:05.132-08:00
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Your thoughtful generosity has pushed this fundraiser to double what was initially set as our goal (which itself was double what I first proposed). It was successful beyond anything I imagined possible. What this means to me, beyond the kindness of everyone who donated and promoted the fundraiser, is expanded possibilities for my decisions about what comes next. I don’t know what that means except leaving this area because of the intense demand for the few available homes.

Thanks to everyone for helping me through a strange event that broke all the rules on living with wildfire. I knew a fire would happen in Paradise and knew my home was vulnerable (old wood shingled walls) and knew I might be required to flee with little notice. But I never envisioned the lack of notice but for my daughter’s phone call, the fire’s speed and scope of spread (dropping flying embers all over town simultaneously). I never thought a wildfire would wipe out Paradise, lower Magalia, and Concow in one day.

Special thanks to Susan W and others behind the scenes who set this up, promoted it online, and helped me accept the reality that I deserve a fundraiser.

I also could single out each of you donors for special thanks because whether you donated $5 or $500, I know it was heart-felt and represents a significant % of your available personal funds. But I will single out Daily Kos (meaning Markos) for the unexpected huge donation of the entire original goal of $10,000. With this donation and that of 189 others, you raised $20,005 in 8 days!

I’ve been fortunate to build a home in the Daily Kos community and even without this disaster necessitating a fundraiser, DK has enriched my life, as do all my friends on and offline. I will now turn my metaphorical home-building attention to creating a new home outside high threat wildfire country. I don’t know exactly what this means yet, but will tell you when it happens.
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I am grateful for everyone's generous hearts and willingness to help me move forward. Accepting the role of a fundraiser recipient was a difficult choice. But when life put me in the position of needing help, I chose to honor that truth -- I need help. Your kind donations support my vision of a life beyond total loss of home, possessions, and my town. The communities online and in real life still surround my life and I know that your donations are giving me options to see my future outside the high risk wildfire zone. --Sally
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$20,338 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 197 people in 6 months
Created November 14, 2018
Fundraising Team
on behalf of Sally B
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