There’s no overstating the losses the Camp Fire inflicted on the town of Paradise and Butte County. The blaze that began on Nov. 8 raged for weeks, killed at least 86 people, destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings, and caused up to $10 billion in damage. Even those hundreds of miles away suffered from heavy smoke which forced hundreds of schools to close and countless outdoor events to cancel.
However, the generosity of those from throughout the state and nation has greatly eased the suffering caused by the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. United Way of Northern California distributed 2,423 grants totaling $1.3 million to survivors by the new year. American Red Cross mobilized 3,300 employees and volunteers, spending $36 million in the first month. Salvation Army provided 126,000 meals and financial assistance to 20,000 people.
To help families that lost everything celebrate Christmas, Lions Clubs gave away 400 turkey dinners and Family Giving Tree donated more than 5,000 toys. The Humane Society and hundreds of volunteers stepped in to care for displaced animals. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company from nearby Chico created a charity beer, donating 100 percent of its proceeds to the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund, and 1,500 other breweries nationwide followed its lead, raising some $15 million.
These are just a few examples; countless other individuals and groups pitched in and continue to do so. The need will continue well into 2019. It’s not too late to contribute to one of the many worthy charities responding to the devastation, including the American Red Cross (https://www.redcross.org/local/california/gold-country.html), Salvation Army, (https://deloro.salvationarmy.org/), United Way (https://www.norcalunitedway.org/camp-fire), or Humane Society (https://bit.ly/2DAcZUz). Or it wouldn’t hurt to go to the nearest watering hole and order a Resilience Butte County Proud IPA. ■
Winter got off to a decent start as surveyors found 67 percent of normal snowpack during their first measurement on Jan. 3. That could be better, but it’s mountains ahead of last year at that time when only a few patches of snow covered the ground. Several January storms look to improve the next measurement.
Speaking of snow, officials from Stanislaus, Eldorado, Plumas, Tahoe and Lassen national forests are preparing winter travel rules that would restrict the use of snowmobiles, allowing them in designated areas while reserving others for non-motorized use. Some of the plans are due for release this year, though the shutdown could delay them. Whenever they arrive, expect plenty of debate from snowmobilers, cross country skiers and snowshoers to follow.
State and national parks are taking new measures to improve their reservation systems for campground and trail permits. To prevent software bots from snatching up all the coveted reservations before human beings get a chance, both recreation.gov (for federal lands) and reservecalifornia.com (for state lands) have upgraded their sites. Both state and national parks have banned the resale of reservations. Still, stiff competition for popular sites like Yosemite Valley and Mount Whitney will likely continue, so try to book early, try several dates and consider alternative destinations. Many sites book six months ahead of time, so now’s the time to get after reservations for the summer season.
In the year’s top climbing story, Yosemite superstars Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell destroyed the speed record on The Nose of El Capitan on June 6, 2018. The dynamic duo scaled the 3,000-foot granite face in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 7 seconds. For comparison, Warren Harding and companions took 47 days to make the first ascent in 1958. Expect the new record to stand for a long time.
Finally, Yosemite is welcoming Miwuk and other indigenous people back to their ancestral home. Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds signed a 30-year agreement granting them permission to use a valley site near the Camp 4 campground for a new village, currently under construction. “It’s good to be home,” said tribal elder Bill Tucker. ■