Merced County Times Newspaper
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Businesses, residents lend hand in Oak Fire aftermath

Times contributor and local photographer, Jim Cunningham, took this picture of the smoke clouds rising from both the Oak Fire (on the left) and the Washburn Fire (on the right). ‘They joined together to make one big smoke cloud,’ Cunningham said. He took the picture from his home in Le Grand.
Times contributor and local photographer, Jim Cunningham, took this picture of the smoke clouds rising from both the Oak Fire (on the left) and the Washburn Fire (on the right). ‘They joined together to make one big smoke cloud,’ Cunningham said. He took the picture from his home in Le Grand.

As one community mourns, another hopes to uplift it.

Merced residents, businesses, and local organizations have been reaching out to firefighters and residents affected by the Oak Fire by offering free juices, discounted food, resources, and hosting a donation event.

As of Monday afternoon the Oak Fire in Mariposa County was 74 percent contained according to the CALFire Oak Fire Incident Report. Full containment is expected to be reached by Saturday, Aug. 6.

Evacuation orders have been lifted for some areas; however, many still remain evacuated or even worse — must face the damage the fire has left behind.

A Mariposa resident shares that the best way to help families in need is by donating funds directly to those in need.

“Right now actual items are difficult because there is nowhere for anyone to store anything,” Deanna Souza, owner of Mae It Be Home in Mariposa shared. “We have received major amounts of donated items but they will sit for a long time until people are back in their home. It will probably be at least four months before most of these people even are allowed to move a trailer on their property. Money will get them fed, into a hotel or Airbnb, a rental, and have something to rebuild when they can.”

Merced College president Chris Vitelli released a statement to its students, encouraging those affected to ask for help.

“To those who have been personally affected by this tragedy, we extend our most heartfelt condolences,” his statement on Instagram read. “I encourage anyone who needs assistance during this time to seek out campus resources, including personal counseling for students and our Employee Assistance Program for faculty and staff. Please don’t hesitate to help-the Merced College family is here for you.”

Fruta Loca and the Bar B-Q Pit are both offering special services to firefighters and those affected by the Oak Fire.

“We stand in solidarity with our neighbors and firefighters and we hope this small gesture can help those directly affected by the fire,” the restaurant’s management said in a Facebook statement. They committed to taking 15 percent off of the totals of those individuals affected by the fire.

Fruta Loca is offering firefighters free juices at their dessert spot located at 3146 G St in Merced.

“We would like to thank all those brave individuals who are fighting the Oak Fire,” they said in a statement.

Nicole Siemiller, boutique owner of Rustic June, is currently organizing an “Oak Fire Relief Fundraiser,” that will be held at Blaker Brewing in Atwater on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 6PM to 10PM.

“We usually do a school fundraiser in September but we decided to move the date up because there are a lot of people in Merced and Atwater who want to help but getting up to Mariposa to make donations can be difficult,” Siemiller explained. “I figured we should rally our community here to show the people up on the hill that we support them. The vendor fees are going to go back to the fire victims, we’re currently working on which organization would be best to donate everything to.”

Scott Patrick will be performing live along with Scotty Rich in order to help raise funds for those affected by the fire. The event will be full of vendors and have a silent auction for residents to bid on.

“We are also looking for community sponsors and vendors. If the community here has been wanting to help out, this is the time to do so. It will hopefully bring everyone together and let Mariposa know that we support them,” Siemiller said.

For more information on the fundraising event or for vending information, you can reach out to Siemiller at (209) 201-9021 and follow event updates on Instagram @blakertarmac.

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