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The Campanile

Palo Alto responds to NorCal fires

Paly students and staff immediately started organizing to help victims of the fires in Sonoma and Napa counties, north of San Francisco. English teacher Cris Bautista, for example, collected food and other necessities and delivered them to the area on Sunday.

“I decided that I need to do something, I need to actually contribute something to benefit and help with what’s going on,” Bautista said. “When I heard about the Napa fire, it was very jarring for me.  It was a place I find to be a very big part of myself.  I would say I became a teacher over there. I use to teach at a charter school in Vallejo and I worked at a high school in Richmond.”

Several devastating wildfires spread late at night on Oct. 8, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people from Sonoma and Napa counties, and causing a loss of life and property. More than 6,700 homes in the North Bay have been destroyed, and 42 people have been confirmed dead as of Wednesday, with over 400 being reported missing in that area alone.

These fires have caused loss that has personally affected many families in Palo Alto, including students and teachers at Paly.

“My cousins’ house and school burned down in the [Sonoma] fire.  He and his family had to evacuate to San Francisco,” senior Derek Gubbens said. “They are going to have to stay there until the situation gets better.”

Hundreds of individual relief efforts are underway in the Bay Area by both private citizens and larger organizations. The Mercury News, for example, has regularly urged readers to donate through articles that detail the impacts of the fire and what can be done.

As of Oct. 17, according to the the official fire news report service, CalFire, many of the fires in Northern California are more than 50 percent contained, with the only exception being the fire near Oakmont, north of San Francisco, which is 27 percent contained.

“It is not good to donate directly to a shelter because they might have enough of that stuff. Instead it’s better to donate to a location that distributes to other places because they know where things need to go,” Bautista said.  “Basically, what I find the most useful is donating to a local organization…because they know what they need.”

Bautista added that new donations should be primarily monetary as supplies are no longer in short supply, but that might change again if the fires start to get worse. Bautista recommends donations be made at the Napa Valley Community Foundation ( or the Redwood Credit Union (

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