These six families are farm workers who lost all their belongings due to the fire. The six families consisted of 11 children (one toddler) and 15 adults (one special needs). Only one 18-year-old with special needs was affected by the fire.
Most families affected were not home when the fire started. Almost all of them received a call at work right before the end of their work day that their home was in flames. The Tulare County Fire Department responded to the call immediately.
“Since the firefighter incident report is not done yet we are still not aware of what the cause of the fire was, I do know that these folks lived in a very restrictive area,” said Rosanai Paniagua, Richgrove Community Services District Board President. “The 26 people affected lived very tightly, an environment many people that don’t have a fair living wage endure, especially immigrants who have limited housing options because of lack of security.”
Paniagua’s parents were farm workers so she knows the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck and having little to nothing for emergencies. People from unincorporated communities rarely have any resources to rely on so she wants to be a resource wherever she can.
“I am simply standing in solidarity with the affected community as we all should. When I found out I was definitely very overwhelmed and worried as I thought about how challenging it was going to be for these families to get back on their feet,” said Paniagua. “With school just around the corner, I was also very worried for the mental health of the families, especially the children who lost all of their belongings. I imagined how challenging it was going to be for them to focus on school while processing that they have no home.”
Most of the affected families have friends or family members in town so they are relying on one another to survive the next few weeks. These families are currently searching for resources and potential locations to relocate to.
“I just want to thank everyone who went out of their way to help my family and I. If it wasn’t for my neighbor Yolanda Guzman, I would not be here. Really appreciate everyone for the instant support and continued support during these times,” said Norma Chavez, one of the victims of the fire.
Families have minimal resources available to them right now, only what the community has offered to them. The community has come together to donate plenty of clothes and food to the affected families.
Resources that these families need are monetary donations, potential housing options, and mental health services/support for the families especially the children affected. Donations can be taken to Richgrove Community Services District at 20986 Grove Dr., Richgrove, CA, 93261.
Paniagua has organized a GoFundMe page and anyone can donate to the families. Their goal is to raise $100,000 for the families. They have lost everything and are relying on their neighbors/friends who are also living paycheck to paycheck as well. Any funds collected will help families move forward with their next steps, which many have no idea what that is yet.
“The afternoon of the fire, all the affected families alongside community members gathered at the Richgrove Park to discuss the situation and assess how folks can support. We all agreed to make a GoFundMe page together to fairly split any funds that were donated,” said Paniagua.