Caring for Cali

Camas-Washougal residents donate to Californians impacted by catastrophic wildfires

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Laura McGuire, of Camas, writes a heartfelt message on a box destined for the wildfire-affected areas of Northern California. McGuire organized a two-day donation effort that inspired Camas and Washougal residents to contribute clothing, camping equipment and personal care items for Californians who had to evacuate their homes.

While the Camp Fire raged in northern California last week, killing 79 people, injuring five firefighters, destroying almost 10,000 homes and decimating the entire town of Paradise, residents in Camas and Washougal set out to help families affected by this and other wildfires burning throughout the Golden State.

Lutz Hardware in downtown Camas served as a drop-off spot. On Thursday and Friday, Nov. 15 and Nov. 16, local folks donated backpacks, diapers, strollers, toothpaste and toilet paper, non-perishable food and pet supplies to give to Californians displaced by the wildfires.

Some of the people donating goods had a personal connection to the areas marred by fire. Lori Fernandez, of Camas, who donated coats, pillows, blankets clothing and other items at Lutz Hardware on Nov. 15, said the fire had destroyed her parents’ home in Paradise the previous week, but that, thankfully, her mother and father were safe.

As of this newspaper’s press deadline, the Camp Fire, which swept through Paradise, had killed 79 people and caused more than $8 billion in damages. Nearly 1,300 people were still reported as missing as of press deadlines on Nov. 22. The Camp Fire, which started on Camp Creek Road in rural northern California’s Butte County on Nov. 8, is the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in the state’s history and the seventh deadliest fire in United States history.

Laura McGuire, of Camas, organized the two-day donation drive after she saw a KPTV reporter interview Justin Pratt, an Oregon trucker whose family had lost their homes in Paradise and Magalia, California. Pratt told the KPTV reporter he planned to drive donations to the Hope Center in Oroville, California.

McGuire said she was inspired to help, because the wildfires were happening “close to home,” so she sent an email to Pratt. He replied, and the donation drive was set into motion with flyers taped to local storefront windows and posts on social media.

McGuire, a retiree who has lived in the Camas-Washougal area for 33 years, used to be neighbors with Aaron Lutz, the owner of Lutz Hardware, so she asked if they could use his store as a donation center for two days.

Emily Pierce and her 6-year-old son, Zack, of Camas, dropped off diapers, bottled water, toothpaste and lotion on Friday, after seeing information about the donation drive on The Post-Record’s Facebook page.

Nikki Dufner, of Camas, donated clothing, blankets and food around noon on Friday, and wound up staying for a few hours to help pack donations into a U-Haul in the Lutz Hardware parking lot. McGuire drove the rented truck to Portland later that day, where she met Pratt, who loaded the goods into his truck bound for California.

Adele Homsher, of Camas, has family members who live in the San Francisco Bay area. She brought supplies to the donation drive on Friday, and stayed to sort clothing.

McGuire received a sweet send-off from Kristie Sandrin and her 8-year-old twin daughters, Jocelyn and Genevieve. The family brought soaps, shampoo, toilet paper and a first-aid kit, along with two cards with handwritten messages from the children, for Californians who had to evacuate their homes.

Jocelyn wrote, “I hope you fell betr,” a message accented by a heart, and Genevieve wrote, “We’r sorry.”

McGuire choked up when she talked about the compassion Camas-Washougal residents had shown toward California wildfire victims.

“It’s amazing,” she said Friday, as she taped boxes filled with donated goods. “You ask people for help and they give it to you.”