In Marin / FYI
Organizations formed after the 2017 Tubbs Fire are hoping to
help California communities grapple with future crises.
By Zack Ruskin
ON OC TOBER 8, 2017, Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties entered what has ominously been deemed “the new normal.” In dealing with the aftermath
of the Tubbs Fire — one of eight wildfires to
burn simultaneously within California that
fall — residents of Santa Rosa and surrounding
areas got a crash course in the sobering reality of the devastation such disasters can leave
behind. The following year, the Camp Fire
would ignite in Butte County, earning the dubious distinction of being the deadliest and most
destructive wildfire in California history.
As the state faces the ramifications of a
perennial wildfire season, many are also
looking at ongoing recovery efforts in areas
affected by the Tubbs Fire to figure out what
their own first steps in a crisis should be.
That’s where organizations like Rebuild
North Bay Foundation come in. Founded
by Sonoma developer and investor Darius
Anderson, RNBF has become a resource for
communities contending with their own disasters. Though Anderson left the group’s board
at the start of 2019, its efforts have continued
under director Jennifer Gray Thompson.
Charles Brooks, director of the Rebuild
Paradise Foundation, says Thompson’s offer of
help after the town of Paradise’s devastating
fire last fall has led to a lasting friendship.
“Jennifer jokes that I’m her ‘Rebuild’
They include Nuestra Comunidad, founded
brother and I joke that she’s my ‘Rebuild’ sis-
ter,” Brooks says, “because we are. We are so
closely connected, but we also forged a friend-
ship and a bond.”
Built around a model meant to unify
public, private and nonprofit sectors for a
streamlined disaster recovery process, RNBF
that sprang from the ashes of the Tubbs and
other wildfires and now provides information
for areas in the midst of a disaster.
by 911 emergency dispatcher Alma Bowen,
offering outreach and CPR training to non-
English speakers and senior citizens.
“Alma is actually going to save lives,”
“Navigating insurance is so difficult,
Thompson says. “She quit her job and she
started a nonprofit.”
Another outfit Thompson speaks highly
of is United Policyholders. Guided by director
Amy Bach, the organization has put boots
on the ground in seemingly every new
wildfire recovery effort across California to
help with the difficult task of getting insur-
ance claims filed and processed.
and she helps communities, as well as
individuals, advocate for themselves,”
Thompson and other leaders are also look-
ing for ways to compile and disseminate the
information they’ve acquired. In some cases,
that entails practical matters of policy.
For example, the latest update to the state’s
building code includes requirements for solar
and net zero energy, but does not yet mandate
that any form of rechargeable, renewable
energy be included. That’s problematic now
that California is facing the prospect of more
PG&E “scheduled” public safety power
“People are going to need access to recharge-
able, renewable energy, because everything is
going to go out,” Thompson warns.
Such energy sources are vital, both immedi-
ately after a disaster and in the event that PSPS
A firefighter takes a
break on Wikiup Drive
after the Tubbs Fire.
Opposite page from left:
Homes in Coffey Park
were destroyed in the
Tubbs Fire; rebuilding a
home on South Libby
Drive in Paradise.