Volunteers playing a vital part in Valley Fire evacuee support

CALISTOGA, Calif. (KTVU) -- The relief effort currently supporting the thousands of people displaced by the Valley Fire would not be possible without volunteers.

At Calistoga's evacuation center, there is an army of people doing everything for the evacuees.

It's known casually as Camp Calistoga, and it's where thousands of people from Middletown and surrounding communities are now calling home.

"I heard last night the fire hit behind my house," said evacuee Blaine Sullivan.

Evacuees couldn't get what they need without the volunteers.

"A lot of these people are people we grew up with, they're family. They're people we cheer on at the football game," said volunteer Kristen Barberis.

300 to 400 people go there each day to put in hours and hours of work.

Cristina Larsen came to Calistoga from Sacramento to check on her father. Once she knew that he was fine, she decided to spend a week's vacation giving back.

"It's so heartening to see all the donations coming in and all the volunteers. I want to help. So, it's just an incredibile feeling," she said.

The volunteers are doing everything, including working in the kitchen. In fact, the kitchen is run by the man they call the culinary director, who comes with impeccable credentials.

Andrew Wild teaches at the Culinary Institute of America and has a catering business, all of which he says is on hold this week.

"So if these people are staying happy and we're keeping them fed and warm and dry, or mostly dry now, we're accomplishing our goal," said Wild.

Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning has been volunteering all week and says this is just how his community is.

"We're here as long as they need us to be here. They're welcome, we're taking good care of them. We want them to be comfortable, we know these are difficult circumstances," said Canning. "But again, they're our friends and neighbors, and we're going to help them as long as we need to."

Evacuees are grateful.

"You've saved us. You really have," said Sullivan, who lives just south of Middletown. Perhaps that's one reason why she is already paying it forward.

"Yeah, I'm going to a family living with me that lost their home. You bet, I have to," said Sullivan.

 

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