Napans are likely familiar with the first responders who immediately stepped forward during last October’s wildfires to battle flames and rescue victims.
At the same time, a second group of citizens quietly followed in their footsteps.
They fed the hungry, sheltered and comforted evacuees, transported the sick and made sure animals were safe. These people and the nonprofit organizations they serve are known as “second responders.”
For example, Mohamed A. Jalloh, Pharm.D., an assistant professor at Touro University who volunteers as a pharmacist for OLE Health in Napa, arranged transportation for evacuees during last October’s wildfires so patients could see healthcare providers.
Jalloh secured a bus from Michael’s Transportation Service in Vallejo that transported more than 20 patients, and when that didn’t prove to be enough, he provided additional rides in his own car.
The night the fires broke out, registered nurse Lois Husted, base/medical emergency management coordinator for Queen of the Valley Medical Center, was told the California Highway Patrol helicopter was dropping off evacuees on the hospital’s helipad.
Her team immediately went to work providing scrubs for evacuees arriving in their pajamas, setting up a comfortable place for them to gather in the hospital lobby and helping find rides to shelters and connecting evacuees with their loved ones. Husted and her team helped more than 50 dazed fire victims that night.
These second responders are members of Napa Valley–area organizations that will be honored Wednesday, Oct. 3, at a Celebrating Second Responders event at the Westin Verasa Hotel, hosted by The Doctors Company and Napa Valley Community Foundation (NVCF).
The Doctors Company and NVCF have also established The Doctors Company Fund, a donor-advised, disaster relief fund managed by the foundation. An initial grant of $127,000 will be announced at the event.
“We are truly grateful to The Doctors Company for recognizing and honoring the work of these second responders with their financial support,” said foundation president Terence Mulligan.
“This new fund will make grants to more than two dozen nonprofits that have played, and continue to play, an essential role in helping residents of Napa and Sonoma counties recover from the devastating North Bay fires.”
The fires charred at least 245,000 acres, damaged or destroyed more than 7,000 homes and other structures, and claimed 40 lives. In Napa County, nearly 70,000 acres were burned, and more than 1,200 structures were damaged, including 612 homes destroyed.
Among those still helping fire victims a year later are Shirley King, program director, CAN-V Food Bank.
During the fires, the food bank provided evacuees with emergency food boxes and water, and they connected fire victims with programs for ongoing support.
“We still have almost 180 households who are coming to us for food because of the fires. That’s almost 900 people,” King said.
Many of those most impacted were service-industry workers who lost their jobs. They may have found other work, but it’s not as consistent or the wages aren’t comparable.
Another is Wendi Piscia of Napa Humane, whose organization provided much-needed funds to livestock and pet owners immediately after the fires, and which continues to provide money to financially strapped fire victims.
In addition to companion animals — dogs, cats, rabbits —Napa Humane has also provided support for farm animals.
For instance, during the fires, John and Suzanne Fouts of Calistoga stayed behind to defend their home and to care for their farm animals—plus another 200 animals in the area.
“We were able to pay for feed for not only the Fouts’ animals, but also for the neighboring farm animals,” says Piscia.
And because insurance did not cover the complete cost of replacing the Fouts’ fencing that was lost in the fire, Napa Humane was able to help offset that cost.
The awards will also recognize those who went above and beyond to serve the community despite the fires’ impact on their own lives, like John Salo, a physician assistant at Queen of the Valley Medical Center.
After fleeing the Atlas Fire with nothing but his dog, his truck, and the shorts and tank top he’d been sleeping in, Salo went straight to the emergency room.
“I wasn’t on duty, but I didn’t stop working until the next night,” he recalls. “My dog was in the call room. I had no place to go. I took a rest and showered when I could in the call room. I was there three or four days and didn’t know if I had a house to return to.” Salo’s home was among the few spared in his neighborhood.