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  • Alpine, others working toward West Fire recovery

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    The West Fire flames that destroyed homes and other buildings July 6-7 in Alpine have united residents and strangers to help with recovery efforts.

    People, organizations and businesses have come together with officials, agencies and nonprofit groups to assist residents who were burned out of about 36 homes. Another 17 residences were damaged and 29 other buildings were destroyed.

    Stephanie Sorrels of Boulevard, a former Alpine resident, went from rescuing horses during the fire to setting up a donation center for fire survivors at Boulder Oaks Elementary School in Alpine. It’s her first time putting together a big emergency project.

    ”I’ve learned that no matter how bad things get, people are still taking care of people,” Sorrels said a week after the fire. “It’s complete strangers helping strangers. I couldn’t have done it myself.”

    At that point up to 20 people a day were driving up to two hours to get to Alpine’s main donation center to volunteer to sort items, help fire survivors and provide other assistance, Sorrels said.

    As of Monday, she said, the Alpine Union School District is allowing the center to remain open at Boulder Oaks at 2320 Tavern Road until Wednesday, Aug. 1.

    Clothing donations were no longer needed at any collection centers, but water, Gatorade, ice coolers, canopies, tents, activities for children and teens, storage containers, nonperishable food, working boots and gloves are helpful.

    Realtor Rachell Lara of Loving Life in Alpine and Kelly Boykin of For the Love Gift Boutique are among those helping to organize the overall assistance.

    “We're coordinating all volunteers, donations, committees,” Lara said. “We’re trying to be the central place to avoid duplication and be efficient with people.”

    As an unincorporated community of about 16,000 people in rural East San Diego County’s foothills, Alpine residents are accustomed to relying on each other when necessary.

    But they also appreciate the quick work of firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and other first responders who got people out safely and stopped the blaze before it raged further into town and those who are continuing to help the recovery.

    The County of San Diego’s Local Assistance Center assisted fire survivors for almost a week with information and resources at the Alpine Public Library. Nonprofit organizations, businesses, organizations and churches have responded in many ways.

    “Everybody’s pulling together and wanting to help,” said Pastor Sherwood Patterson of Alpine Christian Fellowship. “We served 125 meals to first responders and volunteers. We have volunteers and church members who have opened up their homes to survivors.”

    A community meeting on Jan. 10 produced a variety of help, including five committees to help with fund raising, donations, volunteering, Adopt-A-Family and thanking first responders.

    Fire survivors can get more information at https://goo.gl/forms/SbHN4la5MbjXkil93. Those who want to help can visit https://goo.gl/forms/K675jeTy0WR6PSZV2.

    Financial donations to help fire survivors may be made to the Alpine Community Foundation to help raise funds to fulfill unmet needs of survivors.

    Checks made out to the Alpine Community Foundation  may be sent to or dropped off at the Alpine Mountain Empire Chamber of Commerce at 1620 Alpine Blvd., Ste. 208 or On Line Bookkeeping & Tax Service, 2065 Arnold Way, #103, both in Alpine, CA 91901, or at any California Bank & Trust location.

    As these and other efforts continue in the Alpine area, the community organization is gathering information that will be helpful in the event of future wildfires.

    ”We want to be sure that we’re knowledgeable for the next one,” Boykin said.