For those of us who live along the coast, the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is shaping up like any other. Travel plans are being made, food shopping is underway and plenty of folks are looking forward toward a long holiday weekend.
Holiday planning is far more difficult for the residents in Butte County who are anywhere near the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history. The wildfire has scorched more than 140,000 acres, claimed more than 50 lives and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents who are now left wondering if they will have a home left, much less a home to celebrate the holiday.
On Tuesday, local DJ Rollin Trehearne of Big Red Country KRED, was contacted by Bill Connelly, a Butte County supervisor, and the two got to talking about Thanksgiving and the need for turkeys. Over the past 48 hours, Trehearne reached out to local businesses for support and started collecting turkeys that will be delivered to Butte County in the next two days.
“It all started with a conversation with a Butte County supervisor and I asked him if there was anything we could do for the area,” Trehearne said. “He told me the Salvation Army gives out turkeys every year and they could use 400 more. So I got the ball rolling locally, contacted Murphy’s and the Grocery Outlet in Fortuna. You can drop off turkeys at any of the five Murphy’s locations and the Grocery Outlet no matter where you have purchased the turkey.”
Trehearne said he will have the turkeys shipped to Butte County and they hope to get over there no later than Saturday.
“(Thursday) is kind of the last big day we will collect turkeys,” he said. “I think we have more than 200 as of now and I know we can get this done with everybody’s help. I have never met Bill (Connelly) beforehand and I only reached out to see what we could do like everyone else around here. Pro Pacific Fresh may be able to provide transport and I have some other truckers who said they could help and I may have a refrigeration truck that could be used and they will drive it over.”
Trehearne said that other businesses like Don’s Rent-All and (Frank) Zabel Trucking have made large purchases of turkeys and the folks at Varsity Ice Cream in Eureka provided freezer space to keep the birds fresh until they are shipped out.
“Rollin reached out to me the other day and asked if we would be willing to store the turkeys so they would remain frozen and I said sure,” said Varsity Ice Cream office manager Kelsey Ely. “Basically, we are providing freezer space so businesses can drop the turkeys off. It seemed like the right thing to do to assist those dealing with so much devastation. We’re happy to help with even providing something as simple as a Thanksgiving basket.”
It was Connelly who got the turkey drive rolling when he reached out to a man he’s worked with on county matters, Rex Bohn, and it was Bohn who got Connelly in contact with Trehearne. For Connelly, the work to rebuild the fire-impacted areas is still a long way off as he and his neighbors are still dealing with the immediate impacts of the fire.
“I have 10,000 people displaced from their homes and those are just the people who were ordered to evacuate. We have another 7,000 or so who have lost their homes and lost everything but the clothes on their backs,” Connelly said Thursday. “Every year, the Salvation Army puts on a Thanksgiving meal for impoverished families and this effort will run in conjunction with the work they do. I’m a big supporter of the Salvation Army, but we have so many fire victims to feed we put out a call for 400 more turkeys. I contacted the local water company (Cal-Water), AT&T and Recology and they all donated generously. Some of the turkeys will be used in food baskets and others will be cooked and prepared for sit-down meals.”
The businesses Connelly mentioned, donated a total $7,000 dollars for the turkey collection effort and monetary donations are still more than welcome. Connelly also said that local evacuees are not so much in need of clothes and personal items, but sleeping bags and tents can be used by many who have been forced to camp out because of a lack of shelter. Otherwise, it’s always best to donate cash.
“I have met a lot of good people over in Humboldt, I have family over there and I know Virginia Bass and Estelle Fennell pretty well from our work as supervisors. I have a stepsister there and an auntie in the Bear River Valley and I know Humboldt’s got a lot of good people,” he said. “We’re still in the early days and the process of recovery hasn’t really kicked in yet. A lot of people have left the area, gone to Reno or to the coast, anywhere they could find a place to stay. We have to be resilient and help each other. When there is a tragedy in America that’s what we do, we join together and help each other.”
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.