North Bay fire survivors offer 'Camp Fire' victims helping hand

The fire devastation in Butte County is deja vu for disaster survivors in Sonoma County.  

In October 2017, thousands of people ran from the Tubbs Fire and found no homes to return to. 
Survivors say they are sympathetic, and determined to help, but also dismayed to see people were poorly warned once again. 

"I had to go home from work, I was so upset and pissed off, I was sad, angry, crying," Jessica Tunis told KTVU, describing her reaction at learning that those in the path of the Camp Fire did not receive mass alerts on their cell phones. 

Tunis' beloved mother Linda died in her mobile home at the Journey's End complex when the Tubbs Fire raged through the park.

Linda, 69, received no warning while sleeping. By the time she called her daughter, she was trapped and rescue was impossible. 

Sonoma County officials have since admitted their warning system was inadequate, and should have included wireless emergency alerts, similar to Amber Alerts.

As it turns out, Butte County officials didn't use the WEA system either, and many people drove through flames or into traffic jams, fearing for their lives.

As of Friday evening, nine people from the Paradise area were confirmed dead, their remains found in cars, in yards, and in one instance, in a home. 

"How do you not send an alert when there's an evacuation?" demanded Tunis emotionally, "Have you not learned from our heartbreak? What else do we have to do to get this message across? Just send it!"

The scenes of frantic escape amid fire are identical to what so many North Bay survivors experienced 200 miles away.

Also reminiscent: the abrupt loss of their homes, treasured possessions, and sense of security. 

"There are families who are just learning of their house being gone, and they have zero," said Tubbs Fire survivor Tracey Cooper, surveying her living room laden with bags and bins full of donated items. 
"Jackets, coats, we're getting robes, we've got 200 toothbrushes, brand new baby stuff," described Cooper.

She and other volunteers are gathering supplies at several locations to take to evacuees up north.
Cooper felt compelled to pay forward the generosity shown her family, after their house burned down in Fountain Grove. 

"This is the least we can do," Cooper told KTVU, "and I've heard people say, 'they don't want used clothes' but when you have nothing except your p-j's? The shirt I'm wearing was given to me, and I still wear it a year later."  

Fund-raisers of all kinds are brewing. 

At St. Florian's Brewery in WIndsor, beer-makers Aron and Amy Levin are collecting cash and gift cards in a fire boot. 

"We had a lot of friends who lost homes before and they said that was what helped, retail therapy, plus getting what you need in the moment," said Amy.

Aron is a fire captain, and Saint Florian, the Patron Saint of firefighters. Amy expects the fundraiser for Butte County to catch on among customers. 

"We all felt it couldn't happen again," she said sadly, "so there's definitely a need to reach out and spread the love." 

As Santa Rosans wear protective face masks in the smoke once again, some are re-traumatized. And some, like Jessica Tunis, wonder what lessons have been learned, and why officials remain leery of using the notification technology available to them. 

"If you have an evacuation order and a fire is coming toward homes, send the alert, what are you waiting for," fumed Tunis. "It's not going to get everybody but if it saves one life, it's worth it."