Public Safety

Help is Available for Shockey Fire Survivors

Just days after discovering his Tierra del Sol area home burnt to the ground, Stewart Mills drove himself to the Jacumba Library where the County of San Diego has set up a Local Assistance Center for residents who were affected by the fire.

Fourteen homes, 19 outbuildings and 11 cars were destroyed by the Shockey Fire, which started Sunday and burned 2,556 acres, according to the County Planning and Development Services (PDS) and CAL FIRE. Additionally, two homes were damaged in the fire. An elderly man also perished in the fire after he ignored evacuation orders.

“They were all very helpful,” said Mills, after making the rounds at various tables set up under tents outside the library Wednesday.

Mills was able to accomplish what he set out to do at the Assistance Center.

He plans to rebuild the 1911-built home that burned. Mills spoke with Jimmy Wong, representing the planning department who scheduled an appointment for Mills to obtain two permits. One permit will be to rebuild and the other to live on a trailer on his property until the home is rebuilt, he said.

Wong said residents who lost their homes in the Shockey Fire “do get priority. Just like in 2007 we gave them priority.”

Mills also started the assistance process with the American Red Cross for his grandfather who lost everything in the fire. He lived on the property as a caretaker and left everything behind, including his medicines, when he evacuated. The American Red Cross staff told Mills they would call his grandfather at 4 p.m. that same night and speak with him directly to make sure all his needs were met. Mills even got some pet food donated by the County’s Department of Animal Services for some outdoor cats on his property.

Boulevard resident Fran Heath said she was fortunate her home was saved from the flames, but several of her neighbors in Tierra del Sol lost their homes and she was at the Local Assistance Center to gather some information, such as where her neighbors could go for mental health assistance because of the loss.

Joanne Scott, a licensed clinical social worker who works for the County is assisting people with mental health needs. The County lets them know about available resources, and the clinical social worker asks them how they are doing.

“A lot of times people just need to tell their story. That’s how they process it and also organize information,” Scott said.

Anne Fitzgerald, another licensed clinical social worker, said listening to the stories also allows them to screen for signs of depression, and offer help.

About two dozen governmental and nonprofit organizations are available at the Jacumba Library through Saturday to assist residents. In addition to the services mentioned above, County departments will provide information on permitting, rebuilding, reoccupying damaged property; outreach for disabled and elderly residents; CalFresh (food stamps) eligibility screenings and information about other public assistance; connections for physical health care and information on property tax relief and replacing vital records.

The American Red Cross is providing emergency assistance such as food, clothing and medication, said spokesman Cruz Ponce. The organization is also sending mobile teams to residents who may not have transportation after the fire damaged their vehicles, he said.

The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization is assisting residents with free debris removal on their property.

The Community Recovery Team, a nonprofit organization, is offering grocery gift cards for the short term and information about long-term recovery, said team representative Robin Clegg.

Tzu Chi, a Buddhist charitable foundation, offers financial assistance, medical and dentistry services, said Annie Wu. In 2003, the foundation gave a half million dollars to fire survivors and doubled that in 2007, she said.

The Contractor’s State Licensing Board also has a representative who can help people learn about dealing with licensed contractors for rebuilding. Kim Clanton, an enforcement representative with the agency, said they have a lot of information warning people about scams and how to check on proper licensing for contractors.

“A lot of people enter into these relationships with the guy who is the nicest,” said Clanton. “And I don’t think I’ve ever met a scam artist who is not charming.”

Walter Scott, who works with the state Department of Insurance, said he is there to assist people with the claims process.

The state of California also has someone at the center to answer questions about taxes.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has a representative at the center to help process identification cards and driver’s license replacements.

The Local Assistance Center opened Wednesday at the Jacumba Library, 44605 Old Highway 80, and will remain open until Saturday, Sept. 29. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. People can also find information online at www.sdcountyrecovery.com.

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact