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LA firefighters donate RVs to firefighters who lost homes in Maui

Three RVs ready to be shipped to families in Maui.
California Fire Foundation
Three RVs ready to be shipped to families in Maui.

More than 20 firefighters lost their homes while fighting wildfires in Maui. Now firefighters in Los Angeles are reaching out to help by donating Recreational Vehicles to displaced firefighters and their families on the island.

Woody Faircloth runs Emergency RV, the non-profit facilitating the donation. He told Colorado Public Radio that he started the charity five years ago, when a wildfire largely destroyed the town of Paradise in Northern California.

"People want to help, they just often don't know how to help," he said. "We kind of stumbled on this perfect transitional emergency housing solution in the form of RVs back in 2018 with the Camp Fire, and we've been helping following natural disasters ever since."

Faircloth says when the fires hit Maui, they immediately started looking for RVs to donate that were already on the island, but there weren't any available. It didn't seem like there would be a way to get RVs out to Maui, but the California Fire Foundation stepped in to help. They introduced Faircloth to some of the firefighters who lost their homes, and found a ship to send the RVs on. Faircloth just had to get them to San Diego for shipment.

When he put the word out that his charity was looking for RVs to send as temporary housing for firefighters who lost their homes in Maui, Faircloth says people were quick to respond. They ended up with eight RVs, five of which came from Los Angeles County firefighters.

The RV donations are going out with handmade quilts and notes from California firefighters.
/ California Fire Foundation
/
California Fire Foundation
The RV donations are going out with handmade quilts and notes from California firefighters.

Faircloth says he hopes this will provide quick and comfortable shelter for people on the island, because it can take a while for other more permanent options to pan out.

"FEMA and the Red Cross swoop in and they do great work, but it'll take FEMA a full year to get housing units there," he says. "That's just too long to wait... these folks are still working every day and not having a place to go home to, especially when they have families, is something that we just don't think should happen."

Other housing options like AirBnBs or adopt-a-family housing groups on Facebook are popping up, but Faircloth says RV donations provide something more stable. "Fatigue will kick in and that stuff will kind of dry up because these are other people's homes and they use them for rental income," he says. "There's all kinds of complexities there, so having a place of your own is just invaluable and something that's longer term."

The first shipment of five RVs left Wednesday, with another shipment set to go out next week.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tilda Wilson
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