Camp Fire

Camp Fire: Members with big hearts help in times of need


11/28/18


Thousands of people lost their homes to the devastating fires in California this year. Most recently, the Camp Fire in Butte County killed scores of people and destroyed hundreds of homes. Like many others in their community, CSEA members helped save lives, evacuated fire victims, and stayed behind to help until the last possible minute. They generously and selflessly helped others despite the destruction of their own homes. 

Member helps evacuate neighbors

The day the Camp Fire started, Mitch Azevedo of Paradise Classified Chapter 837 opened his front door and saw a deadly orange in the sky. Immediately, he rushed to his work at Ridgeview High School to find the fire rapidly approaching from the hills. There were already cable and power lines down. Azevedo and his colleagues frantically organized buses filled with hundreds of students from three different schools to drive safely to a church a few miles down the road. But just 10 minutes after they arrived, the fire forced them to flee to the high school, where they again had to leave as fires had broken out there as well. 

Once the buses had left with the kids, Azevedo rushed home to pack his things but found that his elderly neighbors had no idea of their immediate danger. 

Instead of evacuating, Azevedo helped his neighbors pack their cars. Mitch and his neighbor turned on all sprinklers and went on roofs to remove leaves from gutters. He tried to contact his daughter and ex-wife, but the phone lines were already down.

“By this time the street was gridlocked, and I couldn’t leave my house,” Azevedo said. “People were abandoning their cars and running. We stayed as long as we could to help.”

Azevedo was able to flee to a nearby shopping parking lot but got stuck there for several hours along with 200-300 other people as the fire grew around them. 
 

'It was like a warzone'

“Almost every house is on a propane system, and tanks were exploding all around us. It was like a warzone,” Azevedo said. “I got so scared. I knew I was going to die in that parking lot.”  

The firefighters were eventually able to clear the road and Azevedo and others escaped towards the post office. 
 

The roads ahead were blocked with fire, telephone poles, and logs, while a tunnel of fire was rapidly enclosing around their cars. 
 

“Firefighters were yelling for the cars to push on and continue driving no matter what,” Azevedo said. 
 

“We drove through walls of fire. I couldn’t see anything, all was black. I was swerving around burning things and couldn’t tell where the edge of the street was. I don’t know how I got out of there.”
 

After the end of a devastating day, Azevedo was finally able to reach his family to find that they were okay. 

“Everyone was in the same boat. But everyone at the evacuation centers was doing a good job at helping to provide basic necessities,” he said. 
 

CSEA was able to help Azevedo with $1,000 from the Assistance Fund. 

“CSEA did a really good job and worked quickly, helped me complete all of the application forms during this time,” Azevedo said. “Thank you for being there.” 
 

Regional leader proud of her community

Bambi Mayfield, Region 7 Representative and member of Butte College Chapter 511, saw CHP officers, firefighters, sheriff's deputies, and volunteers risking their own lives to direct fire evacuees to safety.  

“People were stopping to pick up others whose cars had caught fire, to make sure they got out safe,” Mayfield said. “I am so very proud of our community.”
 

Stan Bransgrove, Director of CSEA’s Sacramento Field Office, called Mayfield directly to make sure she was okay and to let her know that CSEA was offering access to the Dorothy Bjork Emergency Assistance fund for affected members in the area. Members from multiple chapters such as Chico and Gridley also reached out to offer their help and support.

“I am so thankful to belong to such a strong union that provides assistance to members affected by such horror,” Mayfield said. “Without these critical donations, the hundreds of members affected by the Camp Fire, and the other destructive fires in California, may not have had the emergency funds they needed for temporary housing, food or gas money.” 
 

CSEA’s Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund gives members help and hope

The Assistance Fund is disbursed through two different programs: The Emergency Assistance Program and the Humanitarian Assistance Program. This past year, CSEA helped hundreds of members affected by natural disasters, such as the major fires in Butte, Shasta, Trinity, Orange, Riverside, Lake, and Mariposa counties. CSEA also awarded thousands of dollars in humanitarian assistance to members who endured financial hardships from health, job, or other unexpected life circumstances. 

 

Disaster Assistance available for members affected by fires

CSEA members who have been impacted can apply for up to $1,000 in emergency assistance. Call CSEA Member Benefits at 1-866-ITS-CSEA (487-2732) or visit csea.com/bjork for applications and forms. 


CSEA Assistance Fund helps members in need

CSEA takes care of its members on the job, but it also lends a helping hand in times of crisis. The Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund provides financial relief to members in need. The Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund, which subsists solely on the generous donations of CSEA members, is disbursed through two different programs: the Emergency Assistance Program and the Humanitarian Assistance Program. To be eligible for any of these programs you must be a CSEA member in good standing or a CSEA staff employee in paid status.


CSEA Cares

Donate to members in need

The Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund doesn’t come from union dues at all—it relies solely and entirely on voluntary donations from members and staff. Find out how you can contribute...More