Editor’s Note: This special edition of Class Notes was part of a Camp Fire-themed issue of Chico Statements, the University’s signature magazine. The following alumni updates share their roles in response, relief, and recovery in the wake of the Camp Fire.
MIKE SALSEDO (Physical Education, ’73) is a retired educator who has called Boise home since 2010. The former Chico State football player wanted to come to Chico to lend a hand after the fire but realized he could also do good from afar. He led a toy drive called the Treasure Valley to Paradise Project, gathering 600 toys and more than $600 in gift cards, which he drove to Chico himself to deliver just days before Christmas.
STEVE SCHOONOVER (Visual Communications, ’74) delayed his retirement after 39 years at the Chico Enterprise-Record so he could assist with fire and other news coverage. He joined colleagues and fellow alumni including David Little (English, ’85), Tang Lor (Journalism, ’08), Andre Byik (Journalism, ’12), Dan Reidel (Journalism, ’14), Carin Dorghalli (Journalism, ’16), Risa Johnson (Journalism, ’16), Kayla Fitzgerald (Journalism, ’18), and Bianca Quilantan (Journalism, ’18), in providing around-the-clock reporting on the fire from multiple angles, staying on at the paper well into January as he drafted articles on topics ranging from a fire-ravaged pickup that continues cruising through town and the future of a beloved plant nursery to FEMA housing plans.
BARBARA HANNA (Nursing, ’75) is the owner of Home Health Care Management and the president of Caring Choices, a 25-year-old nonprofit volunteer center. Anyone who wanted to volunteer in the wake of the fire was told to register with the agency, and in less than two weeks, it received more than 4,000 applications from the community and beyond. Hanna led the center’s helpers in a unified goal: verify and assign volunteers as quickly as possible and relieve agencies of the burden of doing it themselves. By placing appropriate support where it was needed—whether an evacuation center, animal shelter, or elsewhere—Caring Choices not only helped those with a desire to aid but supported critical relief efforts across the county.
Retired teacher PAUL LEMA (Physical Education, ’76) began his Italian Guy Catering business 15 years ago while still teaching. On November 8, he received a call from World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded by celebrity chef José Andrés devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. It was looking for a commercial kitchen to run its fire relief operation. Together, they served 4,000 to 5,000 meals in the first days of the disaster, ramped up to 8,000 in the following weeks, and topped it off with a Thanksgiving meal for 10,000. After World Central Kitchen departed, Italian Guy Catering contracted with the Red Cross and state of California to continue feeding hundreds of evacuees.
DEBRA CANNON (American Studies, ’77) is the cofounder of Lulus, one of the biggest online fashion boutiques. More than 50 of the Chico-based company’s 800-plus employees lost their homes and countless others were displaced, prompting Cannon to open Lulus’ downtown Chico store to offer $100 in free clothing to all fire victims. In March, Lulus again supported fire survivors by hosting the Paradise High Prom Project, providing free dresses, shoes, accessories, and style advice to high school students affected by the Camp Fire.
MARK DAVIS (Attended, 1974–79) would visit Paradise at least twice a month during his days as a Chico State student, and today, as owner of the Oakland Raiders, he still holds a soft spot in his heart for Butte County. In the weeks after the Camp Fire, he announced the Raiders would donate $200,000 to the North Valley Community Foundation and $50,000 in nonperishable food, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, new clothing, shoes, water, and Raiders gear to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts. “I’m thankful to be in a position to help at this time of need,” he said. “My thanks go out to all the first responders who risked their lives helping to save others. But most of all my heart goes out to all of those who lost their homes and loved ones.”
KEN GROSSMAN (Attended, 1973, 1976; Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, ’08) is the founder, owner, and chief executive officer of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. In addition to launching Resilience IPA as a fundraiser (see p. 27), he tapped the brewery to support other recovery efforts, including a $100,000 donation to a long-term recovery relief fund through Golden Valley Bank Community Foundation, providing free meals in its restaurant for first responders and those displaced by the fire, and hosting a Thanksgiving meal for those in need. “We appreciate the tremendous amount of support and compassion shown from folks around the world,” Grossman said. “With the brave men and women risking their lives fighting this fire and the outpouring of support from communities near and far, we know we are on a path to healing and rebuilding.”
SHERI EICHAR (Home Economics, ’85) spent the summer decorating her third-grade classroom at Children’s Community Charter School like a beach resort, only to have it destroyed when the Camp Fire devoured the school’s kindergarten-through-fourth-grade wing. Twenty of her 24 students lost their homes, so a few days after the fire, she invited them to her house in Chico and started holding classes in her three-bedroom home “like it was the most natural thing in the world.” According to the Los Angeles Times, the students did math in the kitchen, jogged around the block for recess, took spelling tests over Facebook Live, and read Charlotte’s Web in her living room. “They love routines,” Eichar told the LA Times. “That’s what kids need.”
DAN GONZALES (Civil Engineering, ’86) is the owner and president of Fifth Sun. The graphic tees and apparel company launched a fundraising account with Golden Valley Bank that raised $144,212 for Camp Fire victims—with a matching donation from Gonzales—and its graphic designers created a series of Camp Fire clothing items that raised an additional $152,878. Gonzales also is the developer behind the Meriam Park retail-residential-commercial project in Chico, and he is utilizing vacant space on the site for trailers and emergency housing accommodations for more than 50 families impacted by the fire.
YVONNE ZIPF (Psychology, ’88) is still best friends with her roommate from Shasta Hall, Lisa Ten-Heggeler (Attended, 1984–88) and their other college friends Deb Klein (Business Administration, ’86), Patti Krystal Boehlert (Business Administration, ’88), and Frann Wageneck (Social Science, ’88). After the fire struck, they collaborated from their homes across the nation to raise $2,000, which bought gift cards for individuals in need and 15 Amazon Fire tablets for children who had lost their homes.
KIMBERLY BUTCHER (Information and Communication Studies, ’91; MA, Education, ’14) is the administrative director for early childhood programs for the Yuba City Unified School District. When two boys from Paradise enrolled in her programs, she worked with her school team to turn its holiday gift exchange into a way to help the boys’ family. They provided new clothes, shoes, all the gifts on their holiday wish lists, and cookie baking and decorating supplies so that a family tradition would not be impacted by the fire.
DOUG DEMKO (Biological Sciences, ’92) is the president of FishBio, a fisheries and environmental consulting company with an office in Chico. During the fire, he put his role at work on pause so he could lead volunteer efforts at the dog shelter operating at the Chico Municipal Airport, working 12-hour shifts for weeks on end. A longtime animal lover, he supported his employees in volunteering before they reported to the office each day to ensure the dogs’ most critical needs were met first thing each morning.
DAVID FANUCCHI (Journalism, ’93) is a journalism teacher and media advisor at ML Wisdom High School in Houston, Texas. His journalism and yearbook students watch the news every day in class, and when they saw the footage about the Camp Fire, he told them it was near his alma mater. The students said they felt immense sadness for our community and wanted to do something “to help lift the spirits of the entire campus.” They sent dozens of colorful hand-drawn holiday cards with uplifting messages to share with Wildcats affected by the fire.
ERICA BLASCHKE (English, ’93; Credential, ’94) is a seventh-grade English and technology teacher at Paradise Intermediate School. When the school evacuated, she took three students and a fellow teacher who didn’t have enough gas to get out, and fled toward Chico. She’s now writing a blog, Teaching without Walls, that chronicles her journey teaching in an old hardware building and how students and teachers there are redefining what school and learning can do.
WENDY MARSTERS (Wildlife Management, ’93; Credential, ’97) is a teacher at Paradise High School and longtime quilter. She reached out to her quilting community and asked for donations of quilts to give to survivors. Her post on Facebook was shared more than 140 times, and she received quilts from all over the world, distributing 118 to people in need.
KIMBERLEE WHEELER (Humanities, ’93) is the youth librarian and a manager at the Chico branch of the Butte County Library. She helped keep the library open as a central gathering place for the public during the fire, and provided referrals, shelter, information, and access to books, materials, and free movies during and after the crisis. It has also been a hub for the distribution of donated books to children and families in need.
GINA SIMS (Anthropology, ’95) is an administrative support coordinator at the University’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education. Recognizing that displaced elementary students perhaps needed a break from their makeshift classrooms at the Chico Mall, she worked with faculty to organize a field trip to the center so they could practice some “crazy cool science activities” with Chico State students.
BRIAN AUSLAND (English, ’96; Credential, ’01) owns an educational software company, Navigation North, with his wife Jodi Halligan (Nursing, ’00). They both grew up in Paradise and now live in Chico. Working in education, they wanted to help affected students so they reached out to other local technology companies to receive, update, and distribute more than 2,000 laptops to support Paradise students in grades 6–12, as well as helped restore Wi-Fi connectivity at Cedarwood Elementary, which survived the fire. They also set up a student technology replacement fund that raised over $25,000 and is now in the process of being distributed.
DESIREE GONZALEZ (Journalism, ’96; MA, Education, ’09) works for the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), which owned a 36-unit multi-family community in Paradise for low-income residents, who were all displaced by the fire. She helped CHIP cancel its annual fundraising gala, scheduled for mid-November, and instead ask sponsors and ticketholders to donate to Camp Fire recovery. Together, they raised $60,500 to assist their displaced residents and staff and donated an additional $7,200 to the Tri Counties Bank Camp Fire Fund. She looks forward to helping CHIP as it supports the long-term rebuilding solution for affordable housing in the area.
ALI AGUILAR (Attended, ’97) was raised in Butte County and her daughter’s fourth-grade teacher in San Diego happens to be alum Brenan Staples (’84). When daughter Isla Aguilar decided to hold a book drive to collect books for displaced students, both Wildcats were filled with pride. After Isla collected hundreds of books, mom and daughter drove hours north to deliver them.
SARA RUMIANO (Home Economics, ’97) is the director of Procurement and Contract Services at Chico State. When the campus underwent its emergency closure, she realized the county could utilize her team’s skills for the logistics of sourcing, buying, and paying for the massive quantities of disaster response supplies. Procuring everything from 25,000 safety suits to sift through rubble to 4,000 pounds of pig food for evacuated animals, she and her colleagues—including alums Cindy Reiswig (Liberal Studies, ’88), Michael McNairn (Biological Sciences, ’90), Jennifer Thayer (Communication Design, ’90), and Duane McCune (Communication Design, ’97)—staffed several 12-hour shifts at the Butte County Department Operations Center.
JESSE ALEXANDER (Political Science, ’99) is a division chief with the City of Chico Fire Department. He helped with fire attack operations and evacuations with the town of Paradise, including sheltering residences in temporary refugee areas and protecting Feather River Hospital. He was committed to the Camp Fire for 13 days, including four days as a branch director for the search and rescue operations in Butte Creek Canyon.
KEVIN MCKAY (Attended, 1995–97) is a bus driver for Paradise Unified School District. On the morning of the fire, he received an emergency call and picked up 22 kids from Ponderosa Elementary, driving them away from the fast-moving fire. When the bus filled with smoke, he took off his shirt and ripped it into pieces for the children to breathe through. With teachers Abbie Davis (Liberal Studies, ’13) and Mary Ludwig (Liberal Studies, ’93; Credential, ’94) helping comfort the students, he drove for more than five hours, sometimes sitting in standstill traffic, to get his passengers to safety. He’s returning to Chico State this fall to finish his history degree.
ROBERT BOYER (Geography, ’00) is a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol in Chico. He helped represent the CHP at the Butte College command post on the day of the fire, and then worked the remainder of the Camp Fire as night shift liaison to the 150 CHP officers that passed through the Chico office a day en route to perform general law enforcement and checkpoint details in the Paradise area.
JODI DRYSDALE (Health Science, ’00) owns CES Weddings and Events in Chico. She worked with NBC to bring The Today Show with Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and eight superstar chefs to Sutter Dining Hall on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to provide a holiday meal and gifts for dozens of firefighters who had lost their homes in the fire, as well as their families. She continues to support the community’s long-term recovery group.
LISA ALMAGUER (Communication Design, ’01) is the public information officer and communications manager for Butte County Public Health. During the course of the Camp Fire, she led outreach efforts related to air quality and public health concerns in the evacuation shelters.
JASON SMOCK (Business Administration, ’02) works in property management for Chico State’s Facilities Management and Services and helps oversee the University’s surplus warehouse. He helped coordinate the donation of unused tables, file cabinets, chairs, bulletin boards, bookcases, and other items to Paradise Intermediate School, which is currently operating out of an empty hardware building in Chico.
ALYSSA SCHAGER (Agriculture, ’02; Credential, ’03) is a lecturer in the University’s College of Agriculture who teaches the “Agricultural Leadership” course. This fall, she and her students transformed the class community service project to provide holiday gifts to children in Butte County into one that raised more than $35,000 in blankets, backpacks, gift cards, cash, and toys for Camp Fire children and teens. Planting Hope, Harvesting Joy welcomed hundreds of Paradise students to University Farm in mid-December to collect their gifts, visit with Santa, and decorate cookies.
ERIC KENNEDY (Sociology, ’03) is a firefighter with the City of Chico. He helped shelter citizens in place at a drug store in Paradise and extinguish the fire that was burning Feather River Hospital.
SARAH PAPE (English, ’03; MA, English, ’06) is a professor of English at Chico State and managing editor of the Watershed Review. On November 13, The New York Times published her op-ed, “When Paradise Burns,” a personal essay where she talks about what it feels like to be so close to a natural disaster.
KATIE KREPS (Spanish, ’04) works for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She came together with other Bay Area alums to gather thousands of donated books to share with Camp Fire families.
DAN NEWMAN (Electrical and Electronic Engineering, ’05) works for General Electric and is a volunteer captain with Butte County Search and Rescue. He was among the first to get the call to head to the fire area to assist with evacuations, and he helped evacuate Feather River Hospital as the fire hit, pausing only to call his mother to tell her to evacuate. Since the fire, he’s continued working his regular full-time job while also working nearly full-time with search and rescue.
EMILY FOXWORTHY (Nutrition and Food Sciences, ’06) is the CalFresh outreach campus educator and internship coordinator for the University’s Center for Healthy Communities. During the fire, she supported the center’s work staffing the Disaster Resource Center to provide assistance with CalFresh and Medi-Cal applications, as well as conducting direct outreach about disaster assistance available within the burn scar area.
AUDREY DENNEY (Agriculture, ’07; MS, Agriculture, ’14) is a farmer and educator. She helped coordinate efforts to assist evacuees, led a donation drive through Bidwell Presbyterian Church, and continues to partner with community agencies on recovery efforts.
ALLYN PIERCE (Nursing, ’07) Allyn Pierce, a registered nurse and critical care unit coordinator at Feather River Hospital, helped evcauate the last of the patients and drove two of his colleagues to safety. Then, he drove back through the fire to create a triage area in the hospital parking lot for injured residents who needed help. In February, he was honored by Governor Gavin Newsom, who said, in praising Pierce for his heroism, “This is what we do in California.”
JOE WILLS (MS, Psychology, ’07) is retired after 19 years leading the public a airs and publications department at Chico State and now works as a marriage and family therapist. After losing his own home in the Camp Fire, he has facilitated ongoing emotional support gatherings on campus for faculty and staff survivors and guided the Remembering the Ridge memorial ceremony hosted by the University.
DEREK WRIGHT (French, ’07) works as a dispatcher for Cal Fire’s Butte County unit. He helped eld calls and direct emergency response on the day of the re, and continued working for several weeks straight in the aftermath of the fire.
CAMERON FORD (Music Industry and Technology, ’09) is a Chico musician and comedy writer. Days after the Camp Fire, he reached out to fellow musicians in Seattle and Chicago and asked for help creating a compilation album to raise funds for the North Valley Community Foundation. With contributions from Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel and indie-pop band Of Montreal, the 18-song album raised nearly $800.
SARAH HUBBART (Special Major, ’09) most recently worked as an agriculture lobbyist for Michael Tory Associates in Washington, DC, before moving back home to California. In the wake of the fire, she organized a fundraiser at a DC restaurant and tapped her fellow California expats and ag policy colleagues to raise thousands of dollars for the North Valley Community Foundation.
KATY MELINE (Journalism, ’09) is a correctional deputy for Butte County Sheriff’s Office. Among her many rescues that day, she evacuated a newborn baby and father from Feather River Hospital. At six months pregnant herself, Meline was highlighted for her heroism during the harrowing escape in a Facebook post that was shared more than 44,000 times. Meline welcomed her daughter, Lula, in March.
DANIEL OWEN (History, ’10) teaches 7th-grade history at Paradise Intermediate School. He is featured in From the Ashes, a documentary that follows the middle school’s resilient sta and students as they overcome the challenges of operating out of an old hardware store in Chico in the aftermath of the fire.
TAUSEEF JAMADAR (MS, Computer Science, ’11) is a software engineering team lead at Build.com. After the Chico-based company tapped his expertise to help with community recovery efforts, he created a free website for the North Valley Property Owners Association to connect those in need of housing with those who were o ering it. It was so successful, he built a similar site for Chico State called Wildcats Connect to aid our faculty and staff.
TARA RAZI (History, ’11) teaches history at San Marcos High School in Southern California. When she heard about how helpful sifters were in searching rubble for jewelry and other precious items, she rallied her school community to help. Wood shop students built 53 sifters with materials donated by Home Depot, and the art classes painted them, including the message “SMHS is thinking of you” on each. “We get so caught up in our own little world,” Razi said. “This is a good time to take a step back and really appreciate what we have and the beautiful things we get to do for people.
MEGAN SPROWLS (Theatre Arts, ’11) is a theatrical and stage event manager in New York City. Together with Whitney Krause (Musical Theatre, ’09) and 15 other alumni from the Department of Music and Theater Arts, they organized and performed in Reprise: A Cabaret Fundraiser for Camp Fire Relief. They raised $4,200 for the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund.
NATASHA BEEHNER (Communication Studies, ’12) is the marketing manager for Golden Valley Bank. She moved into the role of foundation manager for the bank after the fire, overseeing communications and helping raise more than $10 million in relief funds.
JAMES ENGELKING (Business Administration, ’13) is serving his second overseas tour as a supply corps officer in the US Navy. Stationed overseas, he started a GoFundMe that raised more than $2,000 to help his family provide land and trailer hookups for individuals who fled the fire with RVs and to support them as they rebuild their lives.
DANI ANGUIANO (Social Science, ’14) is a Bay Area-based reporter for The Guardian, and led much of its Camp Fire coverage. She is now writing a book, Paradise on Fire, that chronicles the story of the fire and paints a portrait of the thousands of residents who called the area home.
JENNIFER KENNEY (Animal Science, ’15) is the director of learning and development for Grand Sierra Resort and lives in Reno. She heard of a mother’s group, the Nurturing Nest, that was organizing a drive to support Camp Fire evacuees with young children. She helped gather maternity clothes, infant clothes, nursing supplies, sterilizing bags, and toys to distribute to the families.
JESSE SMITH (MS, Biological Sciences, ’16) is an instructor of biology at Yuba College and plans on attending medical school this fall at the University of Minnesota. He also specializes in pen-and-ink drawings in his free time. He sold prints of one of his sketches of the Honey Run Covered Bridge, which burned in the fire, as a fundraiser for the North Valley Community Foundation and raised $1,500, with sales still ongoing.
In the fall issue, we will return to sharing updates on your professional and personal achievements—from starting a new business or achieving a lifelong dream. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to share where life has taken you since your days at Chico State.