SECRETARY-TREASURER’S DESK | MIKE LOPEZ
From the Ashes
As I write this update, our new governor and all the statewide constitutional officers have been sworn into office and assumed their new roles. Many of our new elected officials are committed to firefighter issues and helping solve some of the big changes we are seeing with the fire season.
For many years now, climate change has affected the lives of all our members throughout the state. The “new normal” of a nearly year-round fire season is leaving our members and their families a lot to contend with. For the communities that our members serve, especially those that have an exposure to wildland fires, it’s imperative that those communities are well prepared to avoid the devastation that we saw in the Camp Fire.
As catastrophic and devasting as the Camp Fire was, the recovery effort for the community and our fire families has been inspiring to me personally and professionally. I spent my whole fire service career in Butte County working for CALFIRE and knew many firefighters and community members who lost everything.
With news of the Camp Fire burning down homes, CPF President Brian Rice and IAFF 10th District Vice President Frank Lima put into place the Disaster Relief plan for our members. DVP Lima directed 10th District State Service Rep Tim Abuodara to head to Chico directly and set up the relief operation. The disaster relief office made available the IAFF Disaster Relief Fund, CPF SAVE program, CDF Firefighters Benevolent Foundation and IAFF Burn Coordinator Mike Feyh. The immediate goal of the group was simple; provide any and all resources and assets for our members and their families.
The collaboration between CPF, IAFF, CALFIRE Local 2881 and Chico Fire Local 2734 was very successful in helping the 47 professional firefighters who lost everything. I want to thank Local 2881 Vice President Darren Dow, Local 2881 Butte Chapter Director Josh Baker, Chico Firefighters Local 2743 President Ken Smith, Tim Abuodara and Mike Feyh for all of their work in helping our brothers and sisters in their time of need.
The support did not end there, next we had to take care of the citizens affected by the Camp and Woolsey fire. Through the Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program, the California Fire Foundation was able to provide immediate financial assistance to victims. Through the generosity of many donors, we were able to increase the value of each SAVE card from $100.00 to $250.00.
When the federal declaration was approved by President Trump, FEMA established a Local Assistance Center in the Chico Mall. The California Fire Foundation was able to establish a table at the center to distribute SAVE cards, staffed by a volunteer rotation of firefighter spouses and friends at the direction of Simone Baker, the wife of CAL FIRE firefighter Josh Baker.
Over 10,000 cards and more than $2.5 million dollars was distributed between the Camp and Woolsey fires. The SAVE cards made an impact on families that I personally will never forget. To see the tears of mothers holding children thanking us because they can now buy food or access temporary shelter was amazing.
Many of you have heard that incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom partnered with the California Fire Foundation for the new governor’s inaugural concert, “California Rises.” The concert – held instead of the traditional inaugural party – was dedicated to providing relief for the victims of these fires. We appreciate the governor’s commitment to partnering with the Foundation and believe the money raised will go a long way in supporting the communities still recovering.
Finally, a big thank you to the California Fire Foundation staff, our accounting staff and the entire CPF family in Sacramento. When the disaster struck, it was truly “all hands on deck” and the staff worked tirelessly nights and weekends in service to our members and the affected communities.
As our foundation continues to grow, our goal will be simple, help those in times of need!