Community unites to support local fire victims

After the 900-acre Pfeiffer Fire destroyed 34 homes in Big Sur, people around the Monterey Peninsula have come together to help victims, including some CHS students, recover after losing nearly everything.big sur pic 1

CHS junior Fabian Perez’s family lost their home in the fire, but not before trying to protect it from the flames.

“My mom woke me up at 11:30 p.m., and she told that there was a fire,” Perez says. “I ran outside with my dad, and we saw it was a big fire, so we ran to the fire hydrants and connected the hoses. I helped my dad fight the fire for a little bit. It was a lost cause.”

Soon after, flames engulfed the Perez family’s home.

Even before the fire was completely extinguished, community members came together to help the Perez family. Using the fundraising website GoFundMe, one of Fabian’s aunts started a page called “Fire Took Everything.” Within 29 days, $11,836 was raised from among 218 people for the family.

Perez is grateful for the donations, and his family has been able to purchase necessary items.

“We got all the stuff that we need for right now,” Perez explains. “The community has helped us a lot. The support we have from them is awesome.”

Other CHS students like senior Baergan Vana had close calls with the Pfeiffer fire. Vana was up at midnight to see an orange glow outside his window.

“This is going to sound ridiculous, but I thought it was aliens,” Vana admits. “So I ran outside, and I felt this giant warmth coming, and I heard people yelling up on top of the ridge. By then I knew it was obviously a fire.”

Vana called his mom, Michelle Cummnigs, who happened to be at work as a paramedic with access to emergency information. She told him there was nothing to worry about, but Vana woke the rest of his family that was at the house, and they gathered belongings just in case they would be evacuated. A few hours later, Vana’s mom returned and they were evacuated. Vana says the flames were only about 100 meters up the canyon when they left.

Fortunately, when they were able to return, their house was safe, and the flames had only been about 20 feet from their property.

Even though Vana’s family was able to move back in, he is still concerned about potential mudslides due to large amounts of exposed earth that could be washed away with rain.

Another campaign to raise money for fire victims involves selling T-shirts. Former CHS student Santana Ponce got the idea to sell t-shirts and give the funds to the American Red Cross after his cousin’s house burned and his family was evacuated. With the help of Floor Store USA, Cypress Cabinets and The Breakfast Club in Seaside, Ponce has been able to sell his t-shirts. Additionally, the stores in partnership with some other companies around the Monterey Peninsula held a fundraiser for gift cards so victims could purchase groceries, household items or clothes.

Karin Batista, marketing and media specialist for Floor Store USA, who also oversaw the fundraiser, says that they received many donations at the beginning, but they have tapered off as time goes on.

“Because it has been a month since the fire, it has been getting harder to sell the shirts,” Batista notes. “Plus, the Red Cross helps thousands of people locally and millions of people throughout the country for everything from small house fires that happen every day to bigger catastrophes like the Big Sur Fire, so the donations are much needed and appreciated.”

Donations for victims of the Big Sur Pfeiffer fire can be sent to the Coast Property Owner’s Association at P.O. Box 59, Big Sur 93920. T-shirts can be purchased at Floor Store USA, Cypress Cabinets or The Breakfast Club restaurant in Seaside.

-Edie Ellison