As Butte County grapples with the widespread and ongoing devastation of the Camp Fire, California State University, Chico is working to understand and address the impact of current wildfires on the heart of its institution—students, faculty, and staff—as well as provide mutual aid to emergency responders. In a survey released to the campus community, hundreds of people have reported significant rates of displacement, home loss, and emotional struggle.
With results from just 15 percent of the campus community so far, more than 1,640 Wildcats report they have been affected by wildfires in California and 1,147 of those are related to the Camp Fire. Among them, 166 individuals report losing their home, and 727 have been evacuated or displaced. More than 445 are providing shelter to evacuees. Others are reporting loss of employer, loss of transportation, the death of pets, homes that are standing but damaged, health impacts from air quality, and secondary trauma.
In response, Chico State has established Wildcats Rise, a comprehensive effort to provide support and relief to all faculty, staff, and students including fundraising, counseling and resource support, and spaces to connect.
“Our hearts are broken for the unfathomable devastation our community is experiencing,” said President Gayle Hutchinson. “Together, we are working to provide support and relief by all means possible, to ensure our Wildcats know we are here for them today and as they begin to recover.”
As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, nearly 900 donors have given $73,700 to the Wildcats Rise Fire Recovery Fund to help us allocate financial resources to students, faculty, and staff who were directly impacted by the fire. Donations to this fund will support those in need of aid for clothing and household goods, electronics such as phones and laptops, transportation, childcare assistance, temporary housing, school supplies, or meal assistance.
Additionally, the University is planning to establish a care and resources center in the Bell Memorial Union Auditorium on Monday, Nov. 19, to connect students and employees with on- and off-campus services, including counseling, human resources support, and academic advising. The center will open with refreshments at 8:30 a.m and remarks by the President at 9 a.m. More details will be forthcoming, and additional days and times will be set based on need.
Lastly, the Wildcats Rise Facebook group is a place where campus community members can offer and find support for immediate and long-term needs, such as housing, transportation, textbooks, and other resources.
The University is doing all it can to provide mutual aid that supports external relief efforts. University Police, in partnership with the CSU systemwide Critical Response Unit team, has been providing evacuation assistance, looter patrol, and search and rescue services. While the campus has not been activated by the emergency incident command as an evacuation center, facilities have opened to house law enforcement, Red Cross volunteers, and other first responders in need of shelter and showers. Faculty and students from the Department of Anthropology’s Human Identification Laboratory are working with law enforcement, including University Police, to locate, process, and identify human remains. Students and faculty supervisors from the School of Nursing are providing medical care in the shelters. The University will continue to host community meetings in Laxson Auditorium for Cal Fire as requested.