Just days after the Center Fire in Big Pine destroyed 19 homes, the community and local service agencies are stepping up to provide aid to those displaced. Preliminary estimates put the damage caused by the blaze at more than $4.5 million.
There are also reports of the amazing community tenor of the tiny town.
“It’s worth emphasizing the supportive community spirit,” said Mary Chasin, Red Cross supervisor of Health Services for the Los Angeles region. “It’s never easy after a disaster but this community is very resilient.”
Donation jars and buckets are already popping up in Big Pine and Bishop, and fundraising events are scheduled for this weekend and beyond.
Inyo County Health and Human Services is helping displaced residents connect to friends and family, and vise versa, said Assistant Director Linda Benson.
She said this has not been an easy task thus far as HHS can only verify the safety of people who had signed in at one of the many local evacuation shelters. The Big Pine shelter at the high school was closed on Sunday after helping 103 evacuees Friday and Saturday. The Lone Pine high school shelter was closed early on Saturday, while the Bishop shelter at the Tri-County Fairgrounds helped more than 30 folks on Friday night and then closed on Saturday.
Benson added that most of the relief efforts are being carried out under the auspices of the Red Cross.
Chasin said that the Red Cross generally serves as short-term assistance. “It’s usually enough time for folks to find other arrangements – such as staying with friends and family.”
Just hours before press time Monday, the Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action had announced it would be the hub for fire relief donations. Jane McDonald said Monday the agency is accepting any sort of donation: money, food or clothing.
Inyo County Fourth District Supervisor Marty Fortney, whose district includes Big Pine, said County Administrator Kevin Carunchio had declared a State of Emergency on Friday and the document will be ratified today by the Board of Supervisors. The declaration, if approved by the state, will open additional funding avenues for emergency relief.
Closer to ground zero, the Big Pine Methodist Church will be open from dawn to dusk all this week. The church will have tables of clothes available free to those in need, and will be open so folks can donate clean, gently used clothes of all sizes and types – shoes, jackets, pants, sweaters. Food is also available and the church welcomes all donations, perishable and non-perishable.
The Rev. Karen Moore said the church is also asking people to donate gift cards redeemable at local retailers and markets.
On Saturday the church will sponsor a garage sale, where fire victims can pick up household items they need and have been lost in the fire, and residents can donate items as well.
Local establishments such Jeff’s Country Kitchen in Big Pine and Wye Road Feed and Supply, Sierra Saddlery, the Bishop Chamber of Commerce and Big Pine School, to name a few, have set out donation collection buckets for the victims. More fundraisers and donations are being established and will be reported on when more information becomes available.
To find people:
• Benson said people displaced by the fire are encouraged to call friends and loved ones and let them know the situation
• For those looking for people in Big Pine possibly displaced by the fire or who have not signed up at a shelter may call *(760) 937-1686
• Checks can be made out to IMACA, specifying “Big Pine Fire” on the memo line, and mailed to P.O. Box 845. Bishop. CA 93515, or checks and other donations can be brought into the office at 224 S. Main St. For more information, call (760) 873-8557 or (800) 541-1822
• Eastern Sierra Community Bank has a fund set up and donations can be made in person or to any of the three branches in the area, or mailed to Eastern Sierra Community Bank, 351 N. Main St., Bishop, CA 93514. Check should be made out to the “Big Pine Fire Relief Fund.” For more information, call Alyx Bien at (760) 937-0048
• Clothes, household items and food can be donated, or obtained by victims, at the Big Pine Methodist Church from sunrise to sunset all this week located at the corner of School and Crocker streets
• A Community Dinner will be held from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, March 25 at Big Pine Methodist Church. There is no charge for the dinner but donations and gift cards for the fire victims are encouraged
• A spaghetti and meatballs dinner for the fire victims will be held from 5:30-10 p.m. on Saturday, April 16 at the Bishop Elks Lodge
• Donation buckets are set up at Jeff’s Country Kitchen, Wye Road Feed and Supply, Sierra Saddlery, the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and the Big Pine School
* (This is the corrected number. The original number was 760-937-7686. The Register regrets the error.)