With wildfires nearly contained, scorched Calif. towns rally together

In Mountain Ranch, Calif., residents are holding weekly town-hall meetings to plan the work ahead, from arranging transportation for those stranded to sharing information on where to go for emotional support.

Andrew Seng/The Sacramento Bee/AP
Fire victim Jacki Malvini holds her cat, Pumpkin on their burned out property in Mountain Ranch, Calif., Sept. 24. Mountain Ranch, Calif. bore the brunt of a destructive Northern California wildfire and now faces its greatest test – recovering from the ravenous blaze, which destroyed more than 350 homes in the town of 1,800.

Firefighters have nearly contained two massive wildfires that sent northern California up in flames earlier this month. But as the fires die down, local residents now face the enormous task of rebuilding.

The fires were devastating. They burned more than 145,000 acres, killed four people, seriously injured at least four firefighters, and destroyed more than 1,700 homes.

Mountain Ranch, an unincorporated hamlet in Calaveras Country, bore the brunt of the Butte wildfire. The blaze destroyed 350 homes in the town of 1,800.

Yet the town’s fiercely independent residents are determined to regain all that was lost. They’ve started to hold emergency town-hall meetings once a week to plan the work ahead, from arranging transportation for those stranded to sharing information on where to go for emotional support.

"It is going to all come back," fire victim Jacki Malvini told the Associated Press. She and her husband lost their modest manufactured home in the blaze. Without fire insurance, they’ll have to rebuild from scratch.

"I haven't heard one person say for sure, 'I'm getting the hell out of here,’ ” Ms. Malvini said. “People are going to be staying."

Farther north, authorities have reopened the town of Cobb two weeks after it was hit by the Valley fire that erupted on Sept. 12 and quickly spread to 118 square miles. All roads to the rural community north of San Francisco reopened to the public on Saturday. The fire is 95 percent contained.

To help hard-hit communities such as Mountain Ranch and Cobb get back on their feet, California Governor Jerry Brown has directed $10 million from the state's budget reserve to help pay for the removal of burned debris. 

"Fast debris removal is also necessary to enable community rebuilding and economic recovery of impacted communities," Brown said in a letter to leaders of the legislature's budget and appropriations committees on Friday. The letter added that the debris poses a threat to lives, public health, and safety.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.