Carr fire distruction

Contaminated debris sits at the site of the Donaldson family’s former residence which was destroyed in the Carr fire a year ago.

Last year at this time, Pam Donaldson’s family was working to help her recover from the Carr fire, which burned Donaldson’s home up Deadwood Road in Lewiston.

The home was one of only a few residences in Trinity County that burned in the Carr fire, which destroyed more than 1,000 homes and took lives in Shasta County. Donaldson, 70 at the time of the Carr fire, did not live to see the one-year anniversary of the devastating blaze.

Aug. 10 last year, after hearing that no homes had been lost in Trinity County, Donaldson and her family found out that the home had in fact burned when they were allowed to return.  

Also lost up Deadwood Road were a trailer on the Donaldson property, two homes with part-time residents, and the travel trailer of the caretaker at the mine.

There has not been much in the way of government assistance for those burned out in Trinity County due to the small number of homes lost here. Although the county declared a state of emergency due to the Carr fire in July 2018, that didn’t mean that Trinity County residents impacted by the fire could get state and federal assistance.

Trinity County was approved by FEMA for fire management assistance, but not for assistance to individuals as Shasta County was. County officials have also been unable to get state assistance with cleanup.

Without insurance for the property, Donaldson got help from friends and family to replace the burned bridge and restore access to the property.

She went to live with her daughter and son-in-law, Jarrett and Tania Gravley. Tania Gravely said the displacement was very hard on her mother, who suffered from congestive heart failure. “It took away a lot of her will,” Gravley said.

Donaldson had planned to move into a rental while working on her home, but instead, “she became really ill,” Tania Gravley said.

About a month after finding out her home had burned, Donaldson was hospitalized. She died a week later, with her family around her.

“I was very lucky to get to be with her,” Gravley said.

Gravley said several months later, the family was horrified to find that what was left of value at the property had been looted. The hydro-turbine power system for the off-the-grid-property had been dismantled and hauled off. Her mother’s vehicle had been vandalized.

A bright spot has been the discovery that sentimental items were in storage buildings that didn’t burn, rather than in Donaldson’s attic as thought. There was a sports card collection belonging to Gravley’s brother, Johnny. Her mother’s journals going back to the 1970s were also found.

The rubble remains on the property, which was red-tagged.

Gravley still has some hope for help with cleanup. The last she heard, earlier this month, county officials were still looking for a way to help.

“We were told if we did anything it would disqualify us from getting any help for cleanup,” Gravley said. “We had to turn down the help of friends.”

The rubble is considered toxic waste and can’t just be taken to the dump. It requires a special container and a special place to dump it, Gravley said.

“This is so much bigger than I can handle,” she said.

From the county Office of Emergency Services, Manager Ed Prestley told the Journal, “Trinity County did not receive California Disaster Assistance Act funding or help with debris cleanup from the state for the Carr fire.

“Though over 22,000 acres burned in Trinity County,” Prestley said, “we did not reach the threshold for property loss to qualify at the state level for assistance funding. Trinity County currently does not have the ability to clean up and transport hazardous debris, which requires specialized equipment and training.”

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