A month after the start of the Camp Fire, a small handful of families left homeless by the massive blaze in Butte County started moving into FEMA trailers as overnight temperatures dipped into the 30s and 40s.
FEMA spokesman Brad Pierce said dozens of trailers are either in place or on their way to sites in Mendocino, the Glen County Fairground, Oroville and Corning, and that the list of sites is growing.
"It's very fluid," Pierce said. "And I expect that list to grow. Every day, there's going to be more locations that are ready to go."
FEMA has roughly identified 280 camping pads for RVs, but they are still finalizing leases. Pierce said once an order is placed, it takes 24 hours to deliver an RV and about 2 days to install.
This past Saturday, Pierce was on his way to the Rolling Hills Casino RV site in Corning, where 12 trailers were in the process of being installed. Pierce said the spaces are comfortable, with interior space similar to a one-or two-bedroom apartment.
"Some have bunks, and others have a full bed in one end of it, and a kitchen, bathroom and shower," he said.
Survivors began moving into the trailers on Monday and will continue to arrive throughout the week.
“For a survivor, it’s never fast enough," said David Samaniego, federal coordinating officer for FEMA assigned to the disasters in Paradise and Southern California. "I’m moving as fast as I can to house as many people as I possibly can in the shortest amount of time possible."
More than 6,000 families have received rental assistance checks from FEMA to date, but rental vacancy rates are nearly non-existent in communities near the burned towns of Paradise, Magalia and Concow.
The Camp Fire — which ignited Nov. 8 and became the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in modern California history — displaced around 50,000 people.
“I’m going to acquire enough property and land to house 2,000 households,” said Samaniego. “And if I don’t need them, then I can send the units back.”
Samaniego said that by the end of the week, he aims to have purchased about 150 RVs/travel trailers.
“We are buying travel trailers off California lots for Californians. They are not being shipped from all over the country,” he said.
The RVs are being purchased from local vendors for around $30,000 to $40,000 each, before being moved to leased sites or to staging areas in Sacramento or Stockton.
And then there are the larger manufactured housing units, or MHUs, which are more like mobile homes.
FEMA has ordered approximately 200 MHUs to be placed in group sites that will function like small communities. FEMA is working with state and local officials to finalize two of these group build-out sites — one in Gridley and one in Chico. Together, the sites have the capacity to hold 650 MHUs.
Samaniego asks that anyone with ideas or commercial pads for RVs contact FEMA by emailing: email@example.com