Carr Fire Funding – Only 292 Rebuilds To Go

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On July 22, 2019, the Record Searchlight ran an article on Carr Fire funding spending by reporter Jessica Skropanic. I read with interest. The bottom line? Per Skropanic, the major organizations surveyed had received a total of $7.6 million in donations and have designated $2.75 million for disaster relief after the Carr Fire.

I was immediately curious: $4.75 million, or 62%, of Carr Fire funds still unspent? Does this mirror typical disaster relief spending patterns? And what’s the plan for the unspent funds?

Take a look at how donations and subsequent spending from these local organizations play out:

For the graph above I have used the Record Searchlight’s numbers, with the exception of updating the totals of the Shasta Regional Community Foundation. A note that Tri Counties Bank funds were all donated to the United Way, which may confuse the careful reader. Red Cross funds are not included here, since the Red Cross, per Skropanic, does not have exact numbers for Carr Fire funds due to their policy of accounting by region rather than disaster. More on concerns with the Red Cross can be found here.

As shown above, the Asphalt Cowboys, Bethel Church, and Tri-Counties Bank have spent nearly all their donated funds. The United Way has spent approximately half, and per Skropanic, has a three- year plan in place for long-term spending of the rest of its disaster relief funds. Shasta Regional Community Foundation (SRCF), has spent the lowest percentage of its disaster relief funds, having spent about $1.59 million, or 32% of the $5 million raised under its “Community Disaster Relief Fund”.

Since I wondered most about unspent funds, I focused in on SRCF’s unspent donations of $3.4 million. I looked first at what they’ve spent so far. More than $500,000 went to the Shasta Builders’ Exchange for the rebuilding of eight homes. Another $500,000 was given in grants to the Salvation Army, mostly for installation and repair of septic systems, power poles and water lines of individual homeowners. The Hill Country Community Clinic was given $225,000 to address mental health and trauma of survivors. The rest of the funds were designated in smaller amounts for uses including erosion control, furniture giveaways, YMCA camp scholarships, replacement of library books, trail maintenance equipment, and gift cards for survivors.

Clearly, lots of good has been done. But with 68% still unspent, I spoke with Kerry Caranci, CEO of the SRCF, to ask why. Caranci reassured me that their slow spending pattern is not unexpected. “We’re running a marathon, not a sprint.” she said, citing the Bowles Fire recovery spending, which took three years. “Our purpose has always been long term recovery.”

This felt prudent. But what’s the plan for SRCF’s long term spending? Caranci was unhesitating and unapologetic about her answer: We don’t know. She related that SRCF plans to spend down its Carr Fire fund over the next five years, but since the road ahead is uncertain, their spending plan will remain fluid and flexible. She did offer a pretty solid clue though: “Construction is expensive” she said “and SRCF is here for the underinsured.”

I asked about SRCF’s $500,000 in grants to the Salvation Army, which represent almost a third of SRCF’s overall spending.

“Those funds went to preparing properties for rebuilding and allowing individuals to stay on their land during the transition,” she said. “The Salvation Army did an amazing job with those funds.”

Caranci added that this spending is very much in line with SRCF’s tentative longer-term goals of assisting with rebuilding for the uninsured and underinsured.

Also in line with this goal, she said, are SRCF’s recent significant donations (totalling almost $540,000) to the Shasta Builders’ Exchange Community Fund, for use by the NorCal Community Recovery Team in the construction of eight home rebuilds. Ground was broken for the first rebuild just a few weeks ago.


The Norcal Community Recovery Team (NorCal CRT) is what is referred to in disaster management as a “long term recovery group”. It’s a community-based coalition of local organizations and individuals who “assess recovery needs that continue to exist after initial federal assistance and community support have been distributed.”

The NorCal CRT aims to eliminate potentially costly duplication of efforts in fire recovery by “providing a coordinated and cohesive approach to donation management, case management, resource allocation and distribution, and spiritual and emotional counseling for survivors.” ( Partners of the NorCal CRT include the Shasta Regional Community Foundation, Bethel Church, the Salvation Army, Shasta American Red Cross, Shasta College, Don Ajamian Construction, The McConnell Foundation, Dignity Health, NVCSS and United Way of Northern California. Committee chairs include Kerry Karanci (CEO SRFC) and Captain Tim Danielson (Salvation Army), among others.

I spoke with Peter Griggs, Public Information Officer for NorCal CRT (and Shasta College’s Director of Marketing and Outreach), who kindly responded to my extensive questions. He explained that NorCal CRT is mostly focused on helping uninsured or underinsured homeowners who lost their homes in the Carr Fire to rebuild. Based on FEMA numbers, NorCal CRT estimates the total number of such homes at 300 and the total financial need for these home rebuilds at $15 million, or $50,000/per home.

Suddenly SRCF’s remaining $3.4 million in Community Disaster Relief funding is feeling pretty small.

I tried to picture a $50,000 home. Mr. Griggs explained that NorCal CRT’s Construction Committee, with the help of Don Ajamian Construction, has developed floor plans for 1,2 and 3- bedroom stick-built homes. Actual costs for these homes hover around $180,000 per home, depending upon size. The $50,000 per home cash cost given by NorCal CRT is based on the expectation that community donations of labor and materials will be raised to cover 70% of the cost of each home.

I felt a little excited (but mostly skeptical) about NorCal CRT’s ability to complete 300 such ambitious projects at such low costs. And, sensing that some of the underinsured will be left out as money dwindles, I immediately wondered how home rebuilds are triaged. According to Griggs: “first come, first served.” Disaster Case Managers (DCMs) work with individual survivors to determine need and eligibility for various kinds of support and have approved seven home rebuilds thus far. It’s not clear what parameters are used by the DCMs to determine eligibility other than that they “thoroughly assess all resources available to the survivor.”

Assuming this vetting process is fair, the multi-million dollar question remains: funding for the hundreds of home rebuilds. According to its website, the NorCal CRT is a 501(c)3. The organization raises money of its own through a second fund at SRCF titled “NorCal CRT.”

Griggs was unsure how much has been raised or spent by NorCal CRT thus far, but mentioned that only about $1000 is currently held in the NorCal CRT fund. I did not receive responses when I reached out to several other NorCal CRT members for more information on funds ,and I found no publicly available accounting for NorCal CRT, so we’re not sure how much of the $15 million needed for rebuilding has been raised so far.

So many more questions . . . and NorCal CRT’s FAQ page did not begin to answer them. I wanted to know: what’s a reasonable timeline for rebuilding 300 homes on a very cheap budget using extensive donations? Will the money and donated labor needed for these homes fully materialize? Will the people who need these homes still live in Shasta County by the time they’re built? Will everyone get a home?

A little more of what we do know: The number of homes built each year is contingent upon available resources. This includes not only financial funding but donations of material and labor. According to Griggs, the CRT hopes and plans to work with their community partners to rebuild 20 to 30 homes each year over the next three to five years.

I did some simple math: At the rate of 30 homes each year, rebuilding all 300 will take about 10 years. At a minimal $50,000 per home, it will necessitate at least an additional $11.6 million in funding, even if SRCF chooses to spend all its remaining funds in partnership with the NorCal CRT. Above and beyond that, community donations of labor and materials totaling $3.9 million would need to be provided EVERY year at an additional overall cost to our community of $39 million.

To this humble writer, those numbers represent a heavy annual burden on CRT community partners, and one that appears unsustainable. NorCal CRT has an enthusiastic and optimistic plan and must surely have courageous and generous partners and leaders, but is their goal realistic? Can our community accomplish it? And while a list of their community partners (an impressive who’s who of local churches, non-profits, and businesses) exists on their website, the site offers no indication of the structure of the organization, who is leading the decision-making processes, or what specific committees might be in place.

The bottom line? Overall, NorCal CRT’s current lack of accessibility and transparency, both organizationally and financially, creates a confusing picture for those of us concerned about Shasta County’s long-term recovery process.

With approximately 300 homes to be rebuilt, and 292 still pending funding, our community has a long way to go. One year in, and it appears SRCF is situated as the key funder of underinsured rebuilds, with NorCal CRT situated to be key manager of the rebuild process.

All that remains now are a few pesky details, like instituting accessibility and transparency in NorCal CRT’s processes and finances.

Oh yeah, and looking for funding for 292 more homes.

Annelise Pierce
Annelise Pierce is fascinated by the intersection of people and policy. She has a special interest in criminal justice, poverty, mental health and education. Her long and storied writing career began at age 11 when she won the Louisa May Alcott Foundation's Gothic Romance short story competition. (Spoiler alert - both hero and heroine die.) Annelise welcomes your (civil) interactions at
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16 Responses

  1. Avatar Russell Hunt says:

    Not all the houses will be re-built because the county is not allowing second homes on parcels less than an acre.

  2. Avatar Susan Tavalero says:

    I was a member of the recovery team from the Boles Fire. Kerry was a vital part of our help. Yes, it took us 3 years, but Redding had 10 times the amount of losses, we only had 150 buildings (not all were homes) and only about 75 have been rebuilt. For various reasons they have not rebuilt, moving, dying, buy a different home, etc. She is correct in saying it is NOT a sprint, she is also correct in saying the “underinsured”, some people may have insurance money, but not enough to rebuild. Some people may not have been insured for a code upgrades, and so on. I am sure, SRF, and the recovery team, are doing the best that they can. They will carefully look at each project, discuss it, and make the best decision they can. Recovery is a slow process…..

    • Avatar Annelise Pierce says:

      Susan, absolutely! Sounds like the Boles Fire is potentially a case study and one SRCF and the NorCal CRT are no doubt looking at. Are the 75 homes you refer to built with donor funds/materials? If so, what an accomplishment! I have respect for SRCF and NorCal CRT and obviously also questions. It’s important to remember that questions, learning, and finding new ways to share and collaborate are all important parts of recovery too. Thank you for serving your community on your recovery team!

      • Avatar Susan Tavalero says:

        No, we only had a few built with donor dollars. We also only had about a tenth of the donations.

  3. Avatar James Montgomery says:

    This is great reporting! Thank you for actual objective local news!
    Thank you, also, for pointing out that there great differences between charities. Most especially, it would be nice to know more about the American Red Cross versus the Salvation Army, in action on the ground.
    Also, you are correct about transparency being an ethical and legal obligation. For those who are curious on the subject, the IRS has a web page.
    Again, thank you for such great reporting.

    • Avatar Annelise says:

      Thanks James and Candace: takes some serious time to investigate and check and recheck all the numbers and facts. It’s nice to hear it helps. 🙂 I sure learned a lot!

  4. Avatar Candace C says:

    I agree with James. Great reporting. Appreciated!

  5. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    How do we know that’s all Bethel raised? Sounds low.

  6. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Brilliant article Annelise. I have absolute trust in the Shasta Regional Community Foundation to husband the monies that people donated to help this community. They are in the business of protecting funds for this disaster as well as others. I’m amazed by what I’ve learned about the NorCal Crt.
    This is going to sound silly, but I was sitting around in the clothes I’d left home with while numerous Carr Fire benefits went on in Redding, and wondered where that money was going. for the most part I’m satisfied that the donations went to organizations that used the money appropriately.
    I’ve been dismayed by how hard it has been for Carr Fire survivors to get information about help that is available for thembecause of these generous donations. Every one needs a lot of help, but where to start, who to ask and where to go for information has been a huge task for hundreds of people. A neighbor who had a beautiful house he built threw up his hands about rebuilding after doing several rounds with county officials after having spent thousands of dollars to prepare his home site for a rebuild.
    Your questions to agencies made a difference. I just received a call from from a disaster case manager asking if he could help my husband and I. I visited with him awhile and learned that different agencies are working together and do have a list of people who lost homes in the fire. I may not be eligible for the help available, but the next person he calls may be.
    Thank you so much.

  7. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    How did Hill Country Community Clinic and Salvation Army let survivors know about what they had to offer? I think these agencies are reaching out and that is a good thing.

    • The mental health project with Hill Country Clinic is in progress. We are currently recruiting 100+ facilitators to lead mind/body small groups in our region. The model was developed by the Center for Mind Body Medicine ( and has achieved remarkable, healing results in other communities. Individuals that are interested in being trained as a facilitator can apply online: By next spring, we will be equipped to offer services to fire survivors and the community at large.

  8. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    What an important piece of investigative reporting.

  9. Jim Dowling Jim Dowling says:

    I think we all want to see the money help those who need and hopefully deserve it the most. That part has to be complicated, though. How are decisions made? What kind of profiling criteria is used to make those decisions? Concerning the considerable monies unspent, priorities are…let’s say, vulnerable to change as the Carr Fire recedes into the rearview. I’m kinda skeptical about anything money related actually holding to a 5 year plan described as fluid and flexible. Good article, Annelise. It reminds certain entities that we the public do care, are watching, and will occasionally check in on how they proceed.

  10. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Oh, Joanne
    I had thought to ask whether people who lost their homes could maybe give some input as to what worked, and didn’t, for them. But I felt the question too personally intrusive.
    At the beginning, with ‘all hands on deck’ at SHS help site etc, I thought all was being taken care of, if that were even possible, but through various personal accounts, including your brave recent one on ANC, it is not so clear.
    Maybe SRCF could survey those affected to ask but I’m sure they have thought of that. Your report on the man ‘throwing his hands up’ re the county is very, very disturbing.
    Thank you for all you do to try to help others

    • Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

      Great idea Eleanor. This would be a worthwhile project that could only improve disaster services in the future.
      The SHS Disaster Relief event was incredible….I connected with so many neighbors and friends. Many agencies that showed up were unprepared, and the forms I was given were outdated and useless. At that time, most of the thousands of people made homeless by the fire had no idea about what they were going to do next, or how to go about getting there once they decided.