How Students Volunteered After the Destruction of the CZU Fires

Written by Beckett Glass (News Editor)

In the aftermath of the fires that ravaged our valley and that almost destroyed Boulder Creek ordinary people from all over the valley and county came and aided people whether it was helping with the animals at the Watsonville shelter or giving out food and water at the evacuation sites. Many students were among those numbers here is how they helped. 

Among the number of students that volunteered is Sophomore Lillie Czarnota who volunteered to help our community. “I volunteered at the livestock evacuation center because we were helping our friend who has lots of goats. I wanted to make sure they were ok and help our community in this crazy situation.  Volunteering during the fire helped me to stay busy and not worry all the time because I was with the animals that I care about. Even though it was hard work, it was worth it because they are safe and happy!”

Sophomore Mikayla Shults, did many things to aid our local and state first responders and used her charity organization to help our community. “The last three mornings I’ve been feeding firefighters, police, and park rangers through Scotts Valley Market. My organization Happy Giving Hands has donated pads and tampons to evacuees through the center on Emiline. We also have put a container of period supplies in front of the cafeteria. When families pick up clothes and school supplies from the PAC they will be able to get pads and tampons.”

During the fire, a Boulder Creek native named Ryan Okrant who has been living in Florida, raced to our coast to help the community that he hails from. In the interview, he answered the following questions: What made you want to come back to the valley from Florida to help? ” I was born and raised in Boulder Creek; my parents still live there and we’re evacuated along with the rest of the valley. I’ve been involved with previous emergency response teams and I had been a part of my local Aptos CERT before moving to Florida. I knew if I got back I could help.” He was also asked how did he deal with the danger, he said ” There were moments when we were up at the top of the ridge just after sundown and encountered hotspots of all magnitudes. Being prepared with tools and gear lightened the stress; however, the key to our safety was knowing how to navigate the mountain roads and being able to report any threatening hotspot to the proper authority. We were lucky many times after having encountered a hotspot and then been able to report it to authorities within moments.” When asked how he felt about helping during the fire, he replied”We didn’t want to impact wildlife in any negative ways. With guidance from a wildlife biologist with 25 years of experience and a master’s in zoology, we set up some random water stations designed for all size animals with different food sources. While we were doing this outside of all park boundaries; we stopped this operation after State Park Rangers and their wildlife biologists took over operations of their wildfire relief efforts.” He went on to describe his days fighting the fire, “They were long. I had multiple people I was communicating with and spent my mornings coordinating my day’s work. I’d then head into the mountains around 1-2 in the afternoon and stay up there as late as 12- 1 AM depending on what I needed to accomplish that day.” 

Our valley owes its survival to the thousands of firefighters, first responders, and residents who stayed behind to defend their homes and those of their neighbors. Driving throughout the valley you will see hundreds of signs giving well- deserved thanks to those who fought hard and long to help. We also owe thanks to those who stayed behind to help save their homes and those of their neighbors.

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