SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Two months after the Camp Fire in Paradise, some of the victims who lost their homes are moving to the Bay Area and are getting resettled with the help of social media.
19-year-old Lauren Decker said she remembers the moment, 9 days after the fire, when she got word her childhood home had burned to the ground.
“I just started crying,” explained Decker. “You just break inside. I feel like I even started screaming.”
She left her house during the evacuation of the town with only her pajamas, her phone and her laptop.
Paradise was lost and this 19-year old college student eventually found that relocating to the Bay Area would enable her to get on with her life. She reached out for guidance on social media and the Facebook group called Bay Area Camp Fire Support came to her aid, in the form of a guardian angel: a San Jose nurse named Ana Maille.
“We have to help each other out,” Maille said, pointing out that many of the people on the Facebook group have been working 10 or 12 hours a day helping survivors.
After Decker, her boyfriend Ansel Craig and their dog Cocoa got settled into a house in San Jose for $1000-a-month rent, she needed furniture. So Maille put out the word on the Facebook group, and began approaching sellers on Craigslist and Nextdoor.
“I would contact them to say, ‘Would you be willing to donate it?’ Or ‘I’ll buy it at a discount? It’s for a paradise survivor.’ And they would say, ‘Oh please, go ahead and take the coffee table. And I’ve got a lamp, I’ve got a work bench,'” Maille said. “People have been really generous and it’s been really heartwarming.”
Decker is one of a growing number of Camp Fire survivors moving to the Bay Area to start over. The social media groups are playing a big part in connecting traumatized survivors with folks who just want to lend a hand.
Lisa Parr moved to Aptos, in Santa Cruz County. She tells KPIX 5 she was helped by angels named Lisa Lent and Debra Feldstein from a Facebook group entitled, “Camp Paradise Fire Support Santa Cruz and Monterey.”
Parr said she had no help from FEMA and needed to move.
“Under insured, no choice,” she said.
As for Decker, she said she is struggling with the expense of living in the Bay Area. She’s applying for a Starbucks job, but eventually wants to put her graphic art skills to work in animation. She studied art at Butte College in Oroville, and plans to pick her studies back up in the Bay Area.
As Decker and Maille shared a long, emotional hug, the teenage survivor said she is grateful for all the help she has received from total strangers.
“It’s like I’ve just met a long lost mom,” Decker said of Maille. “It’s really wonderful to have that support after feeling so alone. People I don’t even know have helped and I would just love to say thank you. It’s overwhelming.”