Funding Long Term Recovery After Natural Disasters: Lessons Learned from the Camp Fire

September 13, 2019

When disasters hit communities, the first thought is simply survival. Can lives be saved? Clean water and essential food made available? And can homes in ruble rise from the ashes? People who care asked these questions when the Camp Fire in Butte County rampaged whole communities. It was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. But once the dust settled and the cameras moved on, it was time to go beyond survival and ask: How will these communities thrive?

The California Community Foundation and the North Valley Community Foundation have worked together since the fires were contained to help those in the greatest need. The recovery process for affected communities will be arduous and extensive. We believe that a full recovery considers not only the health and well-being of affected individuals and families but also the strength of community infrastructure: businesses, nonprofit organizations and social programs designed to support the success of the whole community.

As community foundations, we partnered to publish Strengthening the Safety Net in Butte County Findings and Recommendations. The report chronicles concerning trends within the overtaxed and under-resourced social safety net. The report highlights how property damage, displacement, on-going economic disruption coupled with an increase in need for basic assistance, affordable housing, mental health services and other vital services are creating a scenario of intense strain for both the service providers and the clients in wildfire affected areas.*

While the challenge is great, our intention with the report is to understand key interventions within the post-Camp Fire region that will support and strengthen the community. It is our hope that this analysis can be a tool for advocacy, collaboration and developing a deeper understanding of the vital, yet fragile, social safety net in Butte County. With funds from the Wildfire Relief Fund, lessons learned in this report will be leveraged in a forthcoming CCF report on the preparedness of L.A. County.

We released the report at a funder’s briefing event organized to discuss wildfire preparedness. The findings from the report complimented key take ways from our discussion at CCF.

  • Long-term funding in wildfire relief efforts is critical and community foundations are best positioned to establish a long-term view due to our deep knowledge and enduring commitment to communities.
  • The long view includes investing in preparedness and coordinated resiliency planning as a component of long-term recovery.
  • It is important to build resiliency in the region by fostering relationships before disaster strikes. This allows for a swift and effective immediate, mid-, and long-term response in the face of catastrophic disasters.
  • We must think holistically about long-term funding of the social safety net post-disaster to support the recovery for the poor and vulnerable.

We hope you’ll read this report and consider what it has to say about the tools and strategies we can use to help communities to not just survive but thrive.

*Please note that references to housing, behavioral health, and other systems of care are related to the overall network of public and private service providers and do not refer to any particular program, agency or department unless clearly specified. More specifically, reference to “behavioral health” refers to the entire system of care and not singularly the Butte County Behavioral Health Department.

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