Auburn 49 fire fund seeking help in distributing $32,000 to victims

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn Disaster Relief Fund contains $32,000 raised since the Aug. 30 to aid 49 Fire victims. Steve Galyardt, Community 1st Bank vice president and leader in the fundraising drive, said the committee tasked with the responsibility of distributing the money collected since Aug. 30 wants it to go to needy victims as soon as possible. But it also wants to ensure that dollars go to the people who need the money. Galyardt said one challenge will be to separate the charlatans from the victims. That likely means some outside help from a faith-based group that has experienced disaster aid volunteers, he said. The group is also working with Placer County, through committee member Supervisor Jim Holmes to get a list of victims of the fire and damaged properties. The Salvation Army and Galyardt’s bank, Community 1st Bank, is also compiling a list. “Our goal is to compile a list of names and addresses so the group can put it all together,” Galyardt said. While no money has been freed from the Disaster Relief Fund, fire victim David Sutcliffe said he’s hurting financially and could use help immediately. Sutcliffe’s rented home of 10 years was destroyed in the fire and he had no insurance. Sutcliffe said his Social Security check won’t be enough to carry him financially as he tries to rebuild his life. Sixty-three homes were destroyed during a fire that spread through nearly 350 acres in North Auburn, off Highway 49. “I’m broke. We could always use more help,” Sutcliffe said. “I’ve drained my bank account and now owe an arm and a leg. I’m asking myself, ‘Why us, we didn’t do nothing?’ But then I realize there are 63 families going through the same thing.” People with no connection to the fire have already tried to tap into funds, Galyardt said. “We’ve had people come to our banking office saying they’ve spoken to me and were there for money,” Galyardt said. “People claimed to be fire victims and wanted cash that day. But we need to go through a vetting process and do it right so all parties are handled equitably.” From the first day the fund was formed, organizers have made a commitment that all money will go to victims, he said. The board consists of Galyardt, Community 1st Bank executive Mark Lund, Salvation Army board member Ken Tokutomi, Auburn Journal Editor/General Manager Deric Rothe, Auburn Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Cosgrove, Auburn Mayor Mike Holmes and Auburn-area Supervisor Jim Holmes. “The consensus of the community group was that it wanted money on the street as soon as possible, with distribution done fairly and equitably,” Galyardt said. Tokutomi said the disaster relief fund committee is taking the right approach. “This approach is for the long term and that includes getting an assessment of valid claims,” Tokutomi said The Disaster Relief Fund continues to take in donations although at a slower pace than the first few days following the fire. Sloane McCortney, Auburn Alehouse manager, said that a “49 Fire Beer Money” fund-raiser this past Saturday would be the first time the three-year-old business has actually done a donation-raising event. The fire hit close to home. “We have a few of our regular customers who lost their homes and out of concern for the community we put something on for them,” McCortney said. The Old Town eatery had a special German-themed menu and 20 percent of beer sales will be donated to the Disaster Relief Fund. ----------------- Auburn Disaster Relief Fund How to give: Donate at Community 1st Bank Downtown Auburn branch at 649 Lincoln Way or Auburn North branch at 11990 Kemper Road Suite 150