Paradise Campfire Relief - Kerston Family

$34,730 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 354 people in 8 months
The only word that continues to accurately surmise our family’s situation this last month is “apocalyptic.” The #CampFire in Paradise, CA has destroyed our home, our neighborhood and our entire community. Everyone we know lost their homes, the restaurants we ate at are gone, trails we hiked are no scorched wastelands, places where we shopped are all reduced to smoking rubble. Our mechanic, the woman who cut our hair, all the people that make up a community are all displaced and their businesses are obliterated.

We had a firefighter friend take us to our burned home, to rescue our chickens after a few days without anyone to feed or care for them. As we drove through our old familiar streets, the town that once stood, looked worse than even the news reports could full capture. The expanse of the devastation is almost impossible to take in. It’s clear that no one is going “home” any time soon. We are still technically under evacuation and it doesn’t sound like people are going to be let back in for a while.

Our family’s old dog Chico still continues to be missing. He was somewhere between 12-13 years old. I got him from the shelter in Oroville when we was between 1 and 2 years old. He was a tough old ranch dog. He protected our animals and our family on a number of occasions. Yet, he was so INCREDIBLY loving and gentle with the boys. The animal shelters don’t seem to have an effective chain of custody in place. We don’t know if he’s out fending for himself, at a shelter or animal hospital, or died a horrible death during the fires. We all choke up every time we think about it. A number of people have searched our yard and his body was not found there. We have talked to all of the shelters numerous times and sent them photos and descriptions. Right now there are somewhere around 12 different facilities caring for dogs. He is also microchipped and we have had our contact information updated. The likelihood of him being found alive diminishes with every passing day. It is heartbreaking to think about what everyone’s animals have been through or how they may have met their end.

As former ranchers, the responsibility to be able to provide proper care for the animals you care for is so deeply ingrained in who we are. Kelsey was headed back into the fire specifically for our animals when the canopy of pine trees a few miles from our house exploded in flames and she reluctantly had to turn back. She spent the next 3 hours in a fiery struggle trying to get out through what she could only describe as hell on earth. The first fatalities found were people who died in the cars trying to flee. It’s no overstatement to say that she barely escaped with her life!

Now that the fire is out here are some numbers that attempt to quantify the destruction in tangible numbers, but of course numbers can never fully do the trauma justice :

·   90%+ destruction of the town of Paradise
·   153,336 acres burned or 239.5 sq miles
·   52,000 people evacuated
·   88 fatalities - 203 still unaccounted for
·   This fire has been officially listed as the most destructive fire in California history
·   Possibly the fastest burning fire in recorded history

This article further quantifies the unparalleled destruction of this wildfire:

Beyond our dog, it’s the little irreplaceable things that continue to play over and over in our minds. Kelsey’s wedding dress. An original Leatherman that I’ve had for nearly 20 years. Some bookcases that my dad, a carpenter and custom cabinet builder, made special for me. So many signed copies of books from some of our favorite authors and friends. A pocket watch that my grandparents gave me when I graduated. My grandfather died in January of 2017 and the pocket watch sat on my desk every day right next to his glasses. Handmade quilts from family members. Kelsey’s great grandmothers stand mixer. Canned food that we had been storing up for winter. An antique table that Kelsey’s mom bought as her first piece of furniture when she went to college and then gave to Kelsey when she went to college. A snow village that Kelsey’s grandma bought for her piece by piece and gave to Kelsey over many holidays during her childhood. I had hard drives full of photos and videos of the boys, all ready to go in an emergency – we just couldn’t actually get home. All those photos and family videos are gone. We had lots of old multigenerational photos of family members on our walls that can never be replaced. We have shed our share of tears over the last two days as we have worried about our animals, the irreplaceable keepsakes, and what the future looks like for the town we loved.

We are starting this page because we have had so many loving people ask us to start it so that they can share it and know how they can send help.

As a family that prides ourselves in taking care of ourselves, it’s difficult to ask for financial assistance but if you can afford to donate money our costs to get through this troubling time will no doubt be significant. Any gift cards would also be greatly appreciated.

Prayers, positive thoughts, chants, good juju, encouraging rays of light – whatever you believe in – any and all warm wishes are so greatly appreciated.

Please feel free to share this.

People have asked where they can send things and this is our current address:

Chris and Kelsey Kerston
15865 Thiel Way
Grass Valley, CA 95949

And here are our clothing sizes:

Shirts: Extra large
Pants: 34X32
Shoe size: Mens 12
Suit Jacket Size: 42R

Tops: Medium
Pants: 4-6
Shoe size: Womens 10

David (6 years old)
Shirt: 5-6 or Small
Pants: Boys 6
Shoe size: Boys 1

Danny (11 years old)
Shirt: Medium
Pants: Boys 12
Shoe size: Mens 7
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This is my favorite episode yet - feels like we're starting to finally catch our stride! This episode also shows how diverse our weeks here at the new property have been.
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We finally have some positive news to share; our resolve is paying off!
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Hey guys,
We're still plugging away at this YouTube channel concept. We simply believe that others might be able to learn from our mistakes and triumphs along this journey. You guys have already helped us SO MUCH, but I wonder if you'd consider subscribing to our YouTube channel. We will be able to reach much broader audiences once we reach 100 subscribers.

And then in terms of an update, it’s been a challenging few weeks here on our new little ranch. There is so much to do still in terms of setting up basics like water and power. We had a few emotional setbacks recently too, but we’re digging deep to keep our eye on the prize. Kelsey’s wedding ring, one of the few mementos in our life that survived the fire, got crushed and cracked while working. Our composting toilet got infested with fungal gnats – they’re harmless but it’s just plain icky. Oh, and Kelsey got poison oak for the first time in her life – she’s pretty miserable at the moment. Our access to the internet and cell service continues to bring difficulty – especially since we both work from home. And overall, living in an RV is also forcing us to restructure our expectations and redesign how we organize our things. We’ve been using Holistic Management to help design the pathways that will help us lead to the greatest marginal reaction, but every step forward still feels like it comes with complications and challenges that take us multiple steps back. Overall this process is really humbling us as to how many things we don’t know and we constantly remind ourselves to embrace this integral part of our family’s journey to learn new things and reconvene with nature.

Much love to you all and Happy Fourth of July!
Chris & Kelsey
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It was a busy week at the homestead. We are getting ready to have running water! We hiked to one of the year-round springs on the property - it happens to be a few hundred feet in elevation higher than our garden site or home site so there are all sorts of opportunities to generate energy and pressure for irrigation. Chris had to make a trip to Colorado to show some clients the bison ranch that his organization, the Savory Institute, operates. He was teaching them about Holistic Management and Planned Grazing. Kelsey did an oil change on our two inverter generators. We convert all the lights that run on battery in the RV to LED bulbs to be more energy-efficient and create less heat. Chris and Danny convert a burned water tank into a future duck pool. David shows off his lego project, designed for kids 8 years and older, while he's only 7 - get ready for Mr. Bigshot! Chris' hair does some craziness. Kelsey gets eaten alive by mosquitos. Oh yeah, and Danny shows off his killer dance moves. All in all, we're starting to catch our stride!
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$34,730 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 354 people in 8 months
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