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Marcus Yam 火 @yamphoto
, 25 tweets, 19 min read Read on Twitter
It's the night before thanksgiving. It's cold and wet outside. #CampFire evacuees are still bracing the elements and looking for shelter. Here are some images I'd like to share some images from my time exploring the Chico Walmart parking lot, a temporary refuge for some.
Folks like Sarah, Martin and James, from Magalia, have made the most out of their circumstance. A parking spot was their living room. They set up a propane heater (which was stolen in the middle of the night later) and a television to watch the latest news on the #CampFire.
Brenda Wilson tried very hard to keep her dog Scooby warm. The dog was shivering. She slept in the car. She was cold herself. She was distraught and wanted to go home. When I spoke to her, she had no idea if her home survived the #CampFire.
One night I was talking to Mark Feil, from Magalia and he semi-dozed off in front of me while he was standing up. To say that he was tired and had a long day was an understatement. #Walmart #CampFire
It got so cold that Donnie Jr. begged his 81-year-old father to take up an stranger's offer. Don Sr. would burrow in blankets in his SUV and would wake up occasionally to switch on the heater whenever the shivers return. He would not leave his son's side.…
One night it came close to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Even I was shivering in my thermals and insulated jacket. My toes were numb for hours as I walk around & get to know folks. The #CampFire evacuees are facing a reality in which California's fire season is an all year round thing.
While the donation center at the Walmart was still going on, I ran into Jessica Sijan, whose family lost everything in Paradise. She kept her mind busy volunteering at the donation pile and helped sort out the clothes. She didn't stop working. But her eyes tell another story.
sorry about the typo in the first tweet.
But in this unlikely temporary safe-haven, people huddled together. They shared cigarettes, delivered home-cooked meals, volunteered basic medical assistance and shared conversations. In my time covering #wildfires, I've never seen a community step up the way Chico & others did.
For every day I was covering the #CampFire, I made it a point to stop by the Chico Walmart parking lot to meet new evacuees and hear their story. I met the Hardin family from Magalia: Doneta and her children Madeline, Johnny & 15-month-old Erik, who had to sleep in their car.
And no, I didn't just photograph in the night. I also went there first thing in the morning and sometimes during the afternoon. Here's a overall of a small portion of the parking lot from a few days ago. (before the rain) #campfire #walmart
And when the sun comes out (sort of, through the smoke & haze), so do people's personalities. I'm thankful so many evacuees shared their time talking with me. #campfire #wildfire #walmart
Some put up Christmas/Thanksgiving decorations on their cars, somehow expecting to not transition out quick enough. Some give their pets (like this bearded dragon) some time to warm up in the sun. #campfire #walmart
#Campfire evacuee Debra Odell told me that she survived Hurricane Andrew and is now going through the trauma of re-living another natural disaster. She teared up as she shared her story.
I was struck by this scene: single mom Ashley Widdick, 24, reading a book about dinosaurs to her son CJ, 3, in their car. She was determined to make this a positive experience for him. They recently moved from L.A. to Paradise and she had started a new job, before #CampFire.
I have to also add that most of these images were taken a few days ago and even though there are #CampFire evacuees there still at the Walmart parking lot, most of the folks that I met have moved on to traditional shelters or returned home.
Diana Palomares was in a hospital in Paradise when the #CampFire hit. She was evacuated with other patients to another hospital & was finally released. Her family scrambled into action & rented a U-Haul trailer truck to make a bedroom for her to survive the transition. #Walmart
As the resources at the Walmart parking lot slowly scaled back, volunteers encouraged evacuees to transition out of the parking lot to more feasible shelters in anticipation for the coming rain. That didn't deter strangers from continuing to provide resources. #campfire
I realized that I never finished Donnie's story. His 81-yr-old dad took up a stranger's offer for temporary housing, and even though he returned the next day rejuvenated, Don Sr. refused to leave his side again. What a bond. #Campfire #walmart #family
Donnie had a timely challenge. He needed to get his truck fixed but the alternator would not work. He worked round the clock. His friends pitched in. Temperature was dropping. His wife Doneta didn't want her children to be in the cold. They needed to get to a shelter. #CampFire
Gayle's group, along with Martin, James, Mark and Sarah reached out to tell me that they were finally allowed to go home. The text msg reads: "Well out of all the reporters and journalists, you were my favorite. That's the truth, I'm too old to lie lol...... I won't forget you."
but not all evacuees are as lucky. Many have lost their homes right before the holiday season. The #CampFire has destroyed more than 18,000 structures. So many families will not be spending #Thanksgiving in the comfort of their own homes. Take a moment to think about them.
And this #thanksgiving we should to take a moment for the victims of the #CampFire. The death toll just increased to to 83, while 563 still missing.…
That concludes my photo thread. What we do isn't glamorous, but I'm thankful to everyone affected by the #CampFire for sharing their stories and allowing us to spend time with them during this tragedy.
and thank you firefighters.
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