By John Ramos

NAPA (KPIX 5) — A month and a half after the destructive Wine Country wildfires, the city of Napa marked a milestone Monday: it was the last day for to apply for federal assistance for residents.

Even as the fires were still burning, counties began opening one-stop disaster relief centers to help people who suffered losses big and small.  Now, seven weeks later, there is a new sign of progress.

“Today is the last day for the Napa County Local Assistance Center to be open,” said Napa County PIO Kristi Jourdan.

The room that was once jammed with people has shrunk to one third its original size. Monday, it was largely empty. Only a small team of advisors from FEMA and the Small Business Administration remained as the flood of fire victims seeking help has dwindled.

“Since October 16th, this team at the local assistance center has seen 4,000 homes and between 12,000 and 13,000 people,” explained Jourdan.

Napa resident Sarah Stacks was laid off from her job with the Napa Valley Wine Train when tourism dried up. She says beyond those whose homes burned, many people suffered the kind of losses that never make the news.

“My family actually lost all the food in their house because of it. Because they were close enough where they, like…nothing was edible,” said Stacks.

FEMA had been offering cash grants to help with those kinds of losses not covered by insurance.  They have handed out about $700,000 in Napa County so far, and Monday was the final deadline to apply for help.

But the empty seats signal that the immediate disaster has passed and the hard work of rebuilding has begun.

The disaster assistance office closes for good at 7 p.m., but help from the county is still available online.

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