'Burners Without Borders' provides fire victims with temporary housing

The North Bay is getting creative at finding housing, at least temporary housing, for fire victims. 
One concept: shipping containers that have been converted for sleeping.

"They come with refrigerators, shelving, air conditioning and heating for the winter," Jen Martini of Burners Without Borders, which shipped six containers to a Santa Rosa industrial park this week. 

Only six weeks ago, they were the nucleus of "Camp Epic," a theme camp at Burning Man, where they provided refuge from the heat and dust. 

Now they will house 75 fire evacuees, in what's billed as "Oasis Village". 

"It's meant to be a place where people can come and catch their breath," explained Martini.  

The 40-foot freight containers are divided into three rooms, each with their own locking door.

Each room sleeps four, either in bunk beds or queen size beds. 

The space was offered first to families and staff from an autism school that burned, then to teachers, nurses and first responders.   

"We don't want to lose these amazing people, so if we can keep 75 more, in Santa Rosa and working for our community, then that's what we want to do," enthused Martini, who participates in Camp Epic. 

"We need to think outside the box," she continued, "because we didn't have a lot of housing options in this county before, and we certainly don't now."

The industrial property has power and water, and the owner has graded the lot to create a village.  

"Sleeping quarters on the sides, and the container at the end will be the kitchen," explained Dennis Hunter, who is the CEO of local cannabis product company, Cannacraft.

Hunter is funding much of the project and securing donations from other businesses, for sod and landscaping. 

"People have already offered to donate some ping pong tables, and make it more of a communal space," he smiled. 

He envisions a dining tent and a recreation area, very inviting and comfortable. 

"Some will really like it because with the fire tragedy some people really want to be around other people, have someone to talk to and hang out with," Hunter observed.

Across from the containers, he has made the remainder of his lot available to recreational vehicles housing fire evacuees. 

"We owned our home, and had insurance, but the closest rentals are in Vacaville, Benicia,

Sacramento, and I can't do that for work," lamented fire survivor Lacey Taylor, who has been living in Hunter's fifth-wheel RV since shortly after the fire.

As an art teacher at Cook Middle School, Taylor does not want to leave the area.

"Without this, we'd be moving house to house with friends, or maybe in a shelter," she admitted.

When Taylor's home in Coffee Park burned, she and her boyfriend escaped with three dogs and a cat. 

Two other cats remain missing. 

Living in a camper is an adjustment for the couple and their pets, but they appreciate the amenities Hunter has provided: a portable restroom with a shower, and large outdoor sink. 

An entirely volunteer effort, Oasis Village hopes to welcome its first inhabitants in about a week.

Burners without Borders will first buy new bedding, towels, furnishings and food to relieve the burden on fire victims.

"We want this to be so stress free and welcoming for them," elaborated Martini, "so we want to do all the heavy lifting beause they already did the hard work, just getting through this." 

Burners Without Borders has set a fund-raising goal of $100,000 to support the camp expenses.