How to Help – And Not Help – Someone Whose Home Was Destroyed by Fire

The Carr Fire destroyed the Kaplan family's Redding home.

“How can I help?”

Many loving souls are reaching out because they know several people who have lost everything in the blink of an eye because of the Carr Fire.

It is hard to be honest about what we need, because it is so much easier to give than to receive. But because I love our beautiful community, I will have the courage to open my heart to you.

The top photo shows the front of the Kaplan's home before the Carr Fire. The bottom photo shows the same area after the fire.

How to best help your friends whose homes and everything in it are ash now

1. Text, or post your love. This has been my biggest boost. You cannot say or type the wrong thing if your love is there it will shine through what you type.

2. Offer a place to stay to someone displaced, if you have room. It is so strange to suddenly be homeless and have every hotel full. We are incredibly grateful for our sister Kris and her hubby Jason who hosted our entire Bass/Kaplan family because we were all evacuated. If you know of a rental available (especially furnished) let them know ASAP. These go fast in such a disaster!

The Kaplans embrace on the front steps of their burned home.

3. Gift cards for places like Target or Costco are great, because they have food and clothing, as well as other household necessities such as toothbrushes pet supplies, etc.

Since they no longer have an address to send these cards, just Google their workplace address. Venmo or PayPal, ApplePay, etc offer direct transfers super fast, with no fees. You just need their phone number or email for those.

Here’s the thing. People who lose their homes have to wait for the adjuster to walk the lot and confirm destruction before they pay anything. This could take several weeks or months as they don’t clear destruction zones until cleanup has rendered the area safe.

In the meantime, many families may not have money to get school supplies for their kids, as well as basic things to live until insurance kicks in. Some might be under-insured. Keep in mind they may feel awkward to tell you their needs. I have realized it is not easy to receive, it feels more natural to give. For general help to all displaced, text CARRFIRE to 91999

Kaplan boys first day of school, 2017.

4. Please don’t be upset if they don’t answer your calls or messages right away. There are a million things happening and running through their minds. Many of us don’t have access to a shower, so we may not want to go in public. It is a lot of pressure to look nice when your beauty stuff (creams, hair gels, curling irons, makeup, face creams) has burned. Please don’t be hurt if they reject your offer to meet you out for lunch or dinner while displaced.

5. Understand emotions are everywhere and we all did the best we could when it was time to pack up and go. There are moments of, “I should have...” that are extremely hard and FREQUENT. This is the hardest part for me, personally, because I was out of town working when our home was consumed. It tears me up that I wasn’t there.


Please don’t say something like, “Why did you go to work that day? You should have been home packing up.”

We need support and need to convince ourselves we did the best we could with the information we had at that moment. We need love and understanding more than anything. Of course, we have a million regrets, it hurts when our loved ones magnify them.

6. Thank every firefighter and officer you see. They love hugs, especially if they are dirty, lay one on them.

The Kaplans, grateful for firefighters.

Julie Bass Kaplan is a proud mother of three children and two adult step-children.  She and her husband Jory own Disappearing Act Laser & Skin Rejuvenation in Redding, which is in its 20th year of business.  Julie enjoys being a Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist and traveling around the world to teach the art and safety of Botox and facial fillers.  Julie loves to spend time with her family, hike, paint and explore various types of art. She is currently attending Sonoma State University's Family Nurse Practitioner program and will graduate in May, 2019.

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6 Responses

  1. Beverly Stafford says:

    Wonderful article and advice. Our hearts weep for you and the 1,000+ who lost everything.

  2. Richard Christoph says:

    Pragmatic advice, beautifully written.

    Thank you

  3. Eleanor Townsend says:

    Dear Julie, if only one person learns from your advice to not ‘second guess’, you will have done a great service to a lot of vulnerable people. You are an amazing person, and going out of your way to write this so promptly will, I hope, help others who are displaced.

  4. Julie, it says so much about you and your strength that even in the middle of your own strife and loss, you took the time to accept my invitation to post this piece here on, and two nights in a row you were up past midnight, sending me photos and information. I know what a sacrifice that was, as I know you have other things on your mind right now than dealing with email communication and photos for this article. Thank you!
    You’ve done a huge public service here, and I know I learned a lot from from your words; new-found lessons we’re all learning during this tragedy.
    I am so sorry for your family’s loss. I remember your warm and welcoming home very well, back when I was at the RS and a photographer and I hung out in your kitchen for an afternoon for the story about you and your then-little boys making challah. I remember one of your little guys sitting on the counter, legs dangling off the side. (Look at those boys now!)
    Here’s to new life, a new home, and a new kitchen in which you’ll celebrate and make many more loaves of challah.
    xo doni

  5. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I will never ever forget the Halloween party I attended at your home! That house was a home of joy and fun and love, but you and your family will create that magic where ever you go! I had to share this on FB and I will remember your words when I hear advice and comments from folks who can’t imagine what it’s like when toilet paper, Q-tips and a comb are not magically available when you need them. Thank you Julie.

  6. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    It would seem to me that one of the best things you can offer is yourself. To dear, DEAR friends that have lost everything, I made sure to let them know:
    You need a bed? I have a queen.
    You need a shower? Use mine.
    You need a washing machine? Use mine.
    You need a computer, a printer? Come on over.
    You need a cup of coffee (or a beer or a glass of wine) and a dry shoulder to weep on . . . I have plenty of towels to sop up the overflow.
    To be sure, this is partially selfish. It helps assuage the survivor’s guilt.

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