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Brick buildings collapsed. Entire neighborhoods laid bare. A community devastated. The town of Greenville was nearly wiped off the map in early August as the Dixie Fire pushed through. For many Corpsmembers with the California Conservation Corps the sight brings back painful memories.
“My whole community was affected by the Camp Fire. Concow was completely flattened,” said CCC Chico Corpsmember Yana Beeler. “Everybody I knew lost everything. I decided after that I wanted to be a part of the solution.”
Nearly three years after the devastation in Butte County, Beeler and a dozen other Corpsmembers are lending a helping hand to their Plumas County neighbors. The CCC crew from Chico is assisting the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Department of Water Resources to protect the area’s water sheds.
“We come in and we lay down silt socks and straw wattles,” explains Corpsmember Jason Cleghorn. “We’re trying to mitigate the amount of chemicals and toxins that go into the water supply. A lot of these mountain communities use wells and streams for their water.”
Corpsmembers are laying the silt socks, which contain wood mulch and other material, around drainages and storm grates in an effort to keep the chemicals from burned cars, homes, and household products from negatively impacting the environment. The silt socks and wattles filter water as it passes through and prevents larger contaminants from entering drains.
“I lived in Paradise until it burned down,” said Corpsmember Ari Rowe. “Being able to do something to help this community, well, that really motivates me. It makes me feel like a good person. I’m happy to see all the work we’ve done already and I can’t wait to do more.”
The Chico crew recently provided erosion control assistance in Lake County where the Cache Fire destroyed homes near Clearlake. Last year, many of these same Corpsmembers worked in Santa Cruz County in wake of the CZU Lightning Complex Fires.
“It’s difficult to see so many of our communities so negatively impacted by wildfire,” said CCC Director Bruce Saito. “At the same time, it’s inspiring that our Corpsmembers are motivated to put in long hours of hard work in hot and dusty conditions to help. These young adults are the future of our state and these experiences will shape them as they keep making a difference.”
In less than half a day, the crew from Chico laid 3,000 feet of silt socks around homes and on the banks of Wolf Creek. They expect to put in even more hours of hard work around fire devastated communities as the year goes on.
“A support system helps and we are part of that support system,” said Beeler. “That’s why this work means so much to me because I’ve seen it firsthand. Helping out other people who are struggling just makes this work worthwhile.”