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Big Pine relief efforts grow, get organized

March 24, 2011

In hopes of receiving state aid for victims of the Center Fire last weekend, Inyo County officials ratified a declaration of a state of emergency Tuesday. County leaders are waiting for Governor Jerry Brown to sign off on the declaration. Photo by Mike Gervais

“Show Big Pine home is where the heart is,” Sherri Newman of Jake’s Saloon said in a press release announcing its own benefit fundraiser for victims of the Center Fire. “The time is now to show our support at home. Bring it in, bring it big, bring it for Big Pine.”
Relief efforts for victims of the blaze continue to be organized, locally and throughout the state. There are fundraisers and clean-ups of all sorts planned for the days and weeks ahead.
The efforts have been widespread, yet unorganized until now. The Big Pine School District has set up a link on its website listing legitimate organizations accepting donations, where victims can receive help and a calendar of meetings and other events.
At an emergency meeting of town members and leaders in Big Pine on Monday, it was determined that AltaOne Federal Credit Union will be the sole funding institution for a relief fund, said Christa Padilla of BPUSD.
One group is bringing in volunteers from all over the state to help the community clean up and start to rebuild. Fred Weatherly, a local resident representing the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Organization, said the group’s team leaders will be in Big Pine this week to talk to the community and map out a plan to start cleaning up after the Center Fire. Weatherly said he expects the volunteers and equipment to begin showing up next week. “It’s a fairly immediate response,” he said.
The relief organization does this sort of disaster clean-up in California and beyond.
The relief organization will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. tonight at the First Baptist Church of Big Pine at 293 Chestnut St. Weatherly said the meeting will be to discuss how the group and citizens “envision” how the clean-up process should proceed.
Weatherly, director of the High Sierra Resort Ministries and chaplain for Mammoth Lakes Hospital, added that the relief organization will also be available to speak with individuals to discuss specific details.
It is not known how big of a team the relief organization will send. Weatherly explained those details depend on the amount of need, but he expects it to be big. He described the relief organization as very organized and self-sufficient. There are chainsaw teams, debris teams and heavy equipment teams.
The relief organization also brings its own camping and cooking supplies. “We are here to serve and can take care of our own needs,”
Weatherly said.
The mission of the clean-up effort is to rid the area of anything dangerous, including mobilehome frames, dead trees and burnt-out cars.
Inyo County Integrated Waste Manager Chuck Hamilton said the fees will be waived for fire victims at the Bishop Landfill and there should be no problems finding space to put all the debris.
He said the relief organization has made Big Pine a priority despite the group being busy with flooding in Southern California, tsunami damage in Crescent City and even sending teams to Japan.
There are logistic hurdles to jump, Weatherly explained, such as county regulations, waste management and individual insurance policies. Once the red tape is cut through, Weatherly said, “We’re going to be here a really long time.”
Those who want more information about becoming part of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Organization can go to, or call Weatherly at (760) 934-3122.
Additional relief efforts:
• There will be a clean-up party from 9 a.m. to dark on Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning at the Rossi Ranch and continuing through the other fire ravaged areas of town. The party needs volunteers and prepared food to feed workers that can be delivered to an emergency kitchen set up at 761 Nancy Ln. Those wishing to help should wear old clothes, gloves and shoes as it will be a very dirty job; shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, trucks and trailers are also welcome. For more information, call Sue Short at (760) 914-1109 or e-mail
• Jake’s Saloon in Lone Pine is hosting a Fire Relief benefit tomorrow. The bar opens at noon with dinner to start at 7 p.m. and music following at 9. The Los Viejos, the band of “old guys,” will playing music and dinner will be provided for a $5 donation. There will also be a 50/50 raffle and a representative from IMACA will accept checks and other monetary donations (no furniture).
The saloon will also be accepting donations of toiletries and other necessities.
• Donations are still being accepted, and those in need can pick up items at the Big Pine Methodist Church from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Welcomed items include all household items, clothing and other goods.
• Donations can also be made at the Shirley Summers Gospel Ministries on the Big Pine Indian Reservation from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
• Bishop Waste Disposal and Mammoth disposal are also accepting cash and gift card donations and serve as a drop-off location for non-perishable food and household items through April 15 at dump locations at 100 Sunland Indian Reservation Rd. in Bishop and 59 Commerce Dr. in Mammoth. Portable toilets and roll-off garbage containers will be set up around the burn sites provided free of charge by Preferred Spetic and Disposal of Bishop.
For a complete listing of donation centers and fundraising events, or to add an event, go to, or call Padilla at (760) 938-2222.
Weatherly said that the rebuilding process begins with the efforts of the next days and weeks. “You have to clean up before you can launch a dream.”

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