A Local Assistance Center (LAC), which officials are calling a “one stop shop” to provide resources to those affected by the ongoing fires, opened October 14 in downtown Santa Rosa in the first floor of the Press Democrat building at 427 Mendocino Ave. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with weekend hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Among the agencies represented there are the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as the state of California, Sonoma County and the city of Santa Rosa.
FEMA has been on-site at the center providing individuals with information about how to apply for disaster assistance, which can also be done online by clicking here.
The center is also providing individuals with help obtaining important personal files that they may have lost due to the fires. For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has been providing driver licenses, Vital Records is assisting people with their birth certificate and marriage licenses and Permit Sonoma has been available to answer questions for those seeking more information about rebuilding their homes.
Michael Gossman, Sonoma County Water Agency official and LAC manager, described the center as a place where questions can be answered and resources can be found for anyone who may have been impacted by the recent natural disaster.
“We want everybody to come to the Local Assistance Center, we have resources for everybody,” Gossman said. “The idea is a ‘one-stop shop’ where people can get all of their needs taken care of.”
While some individual’s may fear being turned away due to their undocumented status, Gossman assures immigrants that there is no need to worry, a person’s well-being is the only priority when visiting the LAC and people are there to help.
Chloe’s French Café is one of the many businesses that was damaged by the fires, and was forced to close. Yet its owners and employees have maintained high spirits as they have become volunteers providing food and drinks outside of the LAC. The snacks and drinks provided by Chloe’s is from their catering and event center in Windsor, while the sandwiches are from Zazu Kitchen + Farm in Sebastopol.
When learning the news that her place of employment was affected by the fire in the Coffey Park area, Lourdes Camacho, a Chloe’s employee, believes in maintaining a positive attitude in order to help rebuild the community.
“Unfortunately the place where we work suffered damages and we’re left without a job, but regardless of our situation, my boss called to ask us if we would be able to help her and volunteer our time and we gladly jumped on the opportunity.” Camacho said.
Laura Calleros, another Chloe’s employee, is also a Santa Rosa resident who explained how she first learned about the fires on Sunday October 8 when spending time with her family at home. Calleros said she first saw smoke, followed by a smashing sound which ended up being a branch that fell and damaged the car of one of her family members.
“The smell of smoke was very strong and things began cracking very loudly. We had to react quickly; we grabbed whatever we could,” Calleros said. “While we were not under mandatory evacuation, we decided to leave on our own due to the increase of smoke in our surrounding area.”
Calleros said that while the devastation of the wildfires may unite the community, it emphasizes the need for emergency preparation in case of another natural disaster.
While the center is available for anybody in need of resources, Napa and Mendocino County have also opened Local Assistance Centers. Click here to find your nearest location.