Inez Salinas, a Concow resident and Camp Fire survivor, recently broke ground to build a tiny home with the help of Tiny Pine Foundation, an organization that builds homes for wildfire survivors. Inez is among the thousands of rural residents displaced by the wildfire and many are still in limbo. “Each fire, the people from the previous fire just get forgotten,” she said. “Please just don’t forget about us.”
The 2018 Camp Fire destroyed 18,000 structures, killed 86 people, and left 42,000 people homeless and many jobless. Some survivors of California's deadliest wildfire continue to live in trailers, tents and makeshift homes nearly four years later as they wait for payments from a trust set up to compensate them. The PG&E Fire Victim Trust has paid less than half, or $5.2 billion, of the more than $13 billion owed to survivors in the two years since it was established, according to the latest data. Most are low-income homesteaders who were already living off the grid before the Camp Fire tore through the region and razed the entire town of Paradise. These communities are not uncommon in California and throughout the West, but they largely remain out of the public eye and seldom receive media attention.
Inez received her first payment of about $60,000 from the trust earlier this year, she said, and used some of it to pay legal fees, buy materials for new property where a "tiny home" is being built and spent the remainder trying to make ends meet as a single mother. Salinas is owed about $200,000 total, according to the determination letter she received from the trust, but neither she nor her lawyer know when it will be paid in full. “I will fight and scrape by and bleed if I have to just to keep [my daughter, River] safe,” she said. “Everything I’m doing is to make sure she’s stable. I can’t risk her being taken away from me.”