HAPPY CAMP, Cali. – Nine months after the Slater Fire tore through Happy Camp, rebuilding is coming along one step at a time. Richard Koehler lost his home last September.
“I woke up and there was a phone call saying you better get out of there. And I go ‘oh yeah right’ and I look at the front door and it was on fire, that mountainside was on fire,” said Koehler “Going back afterward and the whole devastation was totally shocking to me”.
Three months after Koehler lost his home and took shelter in Yreka he had a serious stroke. It paralyzed half his body.
“Things that I can’t do anymore. I take for granted — I took it all for granted,” said Koehler.
Koehler missing fishing and his artwork, yet he keeps fighting. He got a good deal on a trailer, but it needs some work. With a little help from his friends, it’ll soon be wheelchair accessible.
One of those friends is Randy Gibbons. He drives from Yreka to Happy Camp 4-5 days a week to help fix survivors’ trailers.
“It’s just the way I was raised you give something back. And I was homeless a little bit of my life, so I know what it’s like to have to do without and make do,” said Gibbons.
Most of its funded by Gibbons himself or a grant program through the Happy Camp Community Center. The Happy Camp Relief Fund is still accepting donations. The fund helps survivors navigate through this rebuilding process. Abby Yeager helps connects survivors to resources, including housing and trailer repair.
“Our goal really is to find ways to rebuild homes in the community and transition people from trailer living back into home living,” said Yeager.
While the journey to rebuild has a long way to go these Happy Campers don’t want to call any other place home.
Click HERE to donate to the Happy Camp Relief Fund.