Twice-struck fire victim gathers supplies for southern California

Sadly, it's not all that difficult to find people who have lost homes in both Southern California, and the North Bay firestorm in October. 

Now, one of those twice-struck victims is doing something about it.  "It's incomprehensible, and it's not over," Cat Geneste told KTVU, in the Santa Rosa carport of her friend Monica Vincent. 

The carport is piled high with supplies destined for Ventura County- such items as toiletries and blankets, plus clean-up gear like shovels and ash sifters.

"Masks, haz-mat suits, stuff for kids," ticks off Vincent, who has been rounding up the donations, including a trailer, through social media. 

"You are my angel, and I don't know what I'd do without you," said Geneste, who plans to haul everything south Friday evening, sharing the driving with two friends. Helping victims to the south was an immediate response after Geneste learned her family's longtime avocado ranch burned the first night of the Thomas fire.

"My cousins all made it out safely and they got all the animals," said Geneste, "but it was the place I spent my youth, always at my aunt and uncle's, every summer, and weekends."

Geneste is still wearing New Balance sneakers, wrapped in duct tape, from the night of the Tubbs Fire. 

The soles of the shoes melted as she evacuated her home in Santa Rosa's Mark West Springs. A retired CHP officer, she also helped neighbors escape. But her home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was destroyed. 

To have it happen again, six hours south, is surreal. "It's remarkable, and I can't even comprehend," said Geneste. Vincent is a retired dental hygeinist, and the two women met when Geneste came to her house during a "free-sale" community giveaway event for fire survivors.  

"I just feel so sorry for everyone," said Vincent, as she prepared her RV, parked in the driveway, to take in a displaced fire victim. 

Vincent and her husband were evacuated for nine days, but with their home undamaged, she has spent the two months since helping families less fortunate. "Part of the solution is, 'here's what's needed right now. Here it is, take it'", she exclaimed. 

Vincent knows many agencies will be helping in Southern California, but she prefers to aid people directly. 

The donated supplies will be driven straight to roadblocks, where evacuees will be. "And we'll hand people things, here's some masks, here are hazmat suits, so they don't have to go stand in a line or figure out where to go." 

They will also hand out copies of a heartfelt and encouraging note from a couple who lost their Coffey Park home. 

The message warns of days you will "grieve all over again", but concludes "it does get better." 
Vincent hopes it will provide some comfort and support to newly burned-out households. 
"It's hard but it will get easier. And I think that's what we should do, is send things, but we also need to send them hope." 

Vincent and Geneste were strangers until fire disaster made them friends, and now partners on the supply drive.  

"There's so much good in people here. It's an incredible county. And so we need to offer it to Southern California too," said Geneste. 

The supply run leaves Friday evening, and is still in need of buckets and hazardous materials suits. For more information, or to donate, drop items off at 423 Lomitas Lane in Santa Rosa or call 707-331-5070.