Auburn’s 49 Fire disaster dollars keep on giving

A total of 46 households aided from community based funding; Fund will stay in place for future disaster
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A community-based relief fund for 49 Fire victims has completed its mission – for now. Set up days after the deliberately set fire roared through a large swath of North Auburn, destroying $40 million worth of homes, businesses and possessions in its path, the Auburn Disaster Relief Fund has distributed all but $1,500 of the $51,600 raised since then. Mark Lund, a relief fund advisory board member and CEO of Auburn’s Community 1st Bank, said 46 separate households benefited from the relief fund, with disbursements averaging about $1,100. The remainder of the money is being held back so the relief fund can go into action helping people when another disaster occurs, Lund said. The Aug. 30 fire destroyed 63 homes and consumed 350 acres. Among the homes lost was one owned for the past quarter century by 72-year-old Jack Kenny. Known in the Auburn area for his charitable work as Santa Claus at Christmas time, Kenny escaped with little else but the clothes on his back and his prized, cherry-red 1968 Chevy pickup. He decided to rebuild on the same lot. Kenny received two checks from the relief fund – one for $400 and another for $200. “It really helped me out,” Kenny said. Kenny’s insurance company was providing payments in three installments and the final one, he was told, wasn’t available until the work on his new house was completed. The problem was that his builder needed money upfront to finish the work. “Those checks provided the money to pay the builder,” Kenny said. “It’s one of the many kind things people have done for us and I’m really appreciative.” Glenda Hoffman, another fire victim, lost everything and didn’t have rental insurance. In March, she thankfully received $200 from the relief fund. “My unemployment payments were running out and I was able to buy $80 worth of groceries and paid my bills,” Hoffman said. Hoffman said she too received help from others, singling out the Salvation Army and the Red Cross as well as the St. Theresa de Avila Catholic Church in North Auburn. The church provided money at Christmas for her to buy a refrigerator. Lund said that a surprising number of people the relief fund helped had no insurance. “It’s hard for a lot of us to imagine if we own or rent a home to not have insurance,” Lund said. “A lot of people in these economic times are living dangerously and they get wiped out.” Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery said she has heard from many people who have been helped by the relief fund. “They’ve said it was a real lifeline for them,” Montgomery said. Lund said the fund now goes into hibernation. “But we’re ready to kick back into action should Auburn experience another disaster,” he said.