SANTA CRUZ — Driving up Swanton Road on Wednesday, local photographer Gina Orlando and husband David Serna did not know that their home was already on fire.
Until shortly before, Serna, a firefighter with the Presidio Fire Department, had been busy fighting a wildland fire at the River Fire in Monterey County, Orlando said.
“We just didn’t know, because it was there hours before,” Orlando said. “It happened to so fast.”
Now, safe with a roof of their heads as they figure out their next steps, the couple has received an outpouring of community support — including through an online fundraiser through GoFundMe. Orlando herself has found herself getting involved in food delivery efforts to other disaster evacuees and a volunteer fire brigade’s members.
“I do feel like there’s so much help,” Orlando said Monday. “I’ve had tons to people reach out to me.”
Even as thousands of Santa Cruz County residents were told to quickly relocate last week, many leaving behind most or all of their worldly possessions as the CZU August Lighting Complex fire expanded, efforts to assist neighbors, first responders and strangers began to pour in from inside and outside the area.
At the same time, a flood of widespread resources to the displaced quickly have gained steam in the past week as support agencies have mobilized and marshaled volunteers and donated funds into action.
Here, the Sentinel organizes a variety of ways for county residents to give and get help during the unprecedented wildfire disaster.
RESOURCES — GET HELP
Customers served out of Felton, Mount Hermon, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek and Brookdale are directed to go to the Watsonville Post Office, 225 Main St, Watsonville. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Customers served out of Davenport and Scotts Valley are directed to go to the Santa Cruz Main Post Office, 850 Front St. Santa Cruz. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Through a partnership between Santa Cruz County and the California Emergency Medical Services Authority, a temporary medical clinic with a range of medical services, including pharmaceutical services and physicians on-site to assist patients throughout the day has opened at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville.
The Red Cross maintains an online redcross.org/shelter and santacruzcounty.us/fireresources.aspx for updated open/closed shelter and hotel locations. Safe parking locations also available.
• Harbor High School, 300 La Fonda Ave., Santa Cruz.
• Cabrillo College (gymnasium), 6500 Soquel Ave., Aptos.
• Santa Cruz Bible Church, 440 Frederick St., Santa Cruz.
• Congregational Church of Soquel, 4951 Soquel Drive, Soquel.
• Simpkins Swim Center, 979 17th Ave., Santa Cruz.
• Lakeview Middle School, 2350 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville. Open for outdoor camping with limited indoor capacity.
No-cost disaster relief accommodations may be available through Airbnb. Visit airbnb.com/openhomes/disaster-relief to register and learn more.
Animal boarding is available at 831-454-7200. Horses and other large animals are being welcomed at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, with overflow capacity available at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
Evacuees may see if they qualify for CalFresh food assistance by applying at getcalfresh.org or mybenefitscalwin.org, at 888-421-8080 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Paper applications at 18 W. Beach St., Watsonville or 1020 Emeline Ave., Santa Cruz.
Free loads of laundry from evacuees at the Laundry Room, 419 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 831-471-8141, laundryroomseabright.com.
General evacuee disaster assistance, such as housing, food and other associated needs. Visit disasterassistance.gov to apply. Spanish-speaking survivors: disasterassistance.gov.
Survivors can also call 800-621-3362 for any questions and assistance.
Property retrieval, Scotts Valley:
Scotts Valley Police Department is responding to a high level of requests to regain access to evacuated homes and businesses. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, officers only will respond to essential requests to retrieve medicine and medical equipment that cannot be accessed elsewhere, will lock homes or businesses and turn off sprinklers. Officers will accompany people to get their left-behind pets; to get work vehicles, tools or items directly related to their livelihood for one visit only; to retrieve a friend or family member in need of evacuation. Access requests to retrieve personal items or to turn off propane tanks will not be granted. Call police dispatch at 831-440-5670. Wait times may be hours long.
Business and residential funding:
U.S. Small Business Administration Virtual Business Recovery Center and Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center for Lighting Complex fire-related difficulties, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. Email [email protected] or call 916-735-1500. Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. Businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. SBA can also lend additional funds to businesses and homeowners to help with the cost of improvements to protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future. Economic injury assistance for small businesses is available to businesses regardless of any property damage.
Santa Cruz County Mutual Aid, tinyurl.com/SCCmutualaid.
Santa Cruz Fire Assistance Group: facebook.com/groups/santacruzcountyfireassistance.
The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County is currently mobilizing volunteers who can register by visiting scvolunteercenter.org or calling 831-427-5070. In particular, volunteers are needed immediately to help staff emergency shelters established throughout Santa Cruz County.
Food Not Bombs daily food preparation and distribution. Preparation beginning at noon each Saturday and Sunday at Calvary Episcopal Church, 532 Center St. and weekend meals served from 4-6 p.m. at Laurel and Front streets. Weekdays, preparation at noon and meals served from 1-6 p.m. at Laurel and Front streets. Email volunteer coordinator Emma at [email protected] Food and clothing donations for the homeless community also accepted.
The Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has established the Fire Response Fund to support those affected by the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires. Donations to the fund will be distributed to nonprofit agencies and organizations directly assisting individuals to meet needs as they arise. Visit cfscc.org/donate/fire to donate.
Due to COVID-19 considerations, donations must be in new condition. Prepared meals, alcohol and used bedding or clothing is not being accepted. List of recommended donations available online at santacruzcounty.us/fireresources.aspx. Bring non-perishable goods and new items to:
• Santa Cruz County Warehouse, 1082 Emeline Ave., Santa Cruz. Warehouse open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Sept. 1.
• South County Donation Site, 114 Walker St., Watsonville. Site open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Friday.
• Watsonville also is accepting donations of tents and nonperishable food items at Fire Stations 1 (115 Second St.) and 2 (370 Airport Blvd.).
Cal Fire officials “ask that any voluntary efforts or donations be directed to local charities and food banks to assist the community and those displaced by the fire,” rather than to emergency responders based in Scotts Valley. “It is respectfully requested that we no longer receive donations.”
Numerous Northern California fire fundraising efforts: gofundme.com/c/act/northern-california-fires.