Special Sections : West Fire

Monday, Aug 09 2010 07:46 PM

Concert, other efforts planned to help fire victims

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A community meeting to discuss how to financially assist victims of the West Fire was held Monday, Aug. 2, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall on Tehachapi Boulevard.

There will be no shortage of chances for Tehachapi residents to assist the victims of a fire that recently overwhelmed Old West Ranch.

There also will be no shortage of volunteers apparently.

Roughly 120 people packed the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall on Tehachapi Boulevard Monday, Aug. 2, to discuss ways to raise money for those whose homes were lost or damaged during the West Fire, which burned 1,658 acres last week in Old West Ranch.

The fire burned 23 primary residences and displaced a currently unknown number of people.

Orion Sanders, who emceed the meeting, said a benefit concert for West Fire victims had been tentatively scheduled for Aug. 28.

Sanders said it would be called the "West Fire Relief Music Festival," and could feature roughly a dozen musical acts. Different organizations, including the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross, are expected to be present to collect donations.

Any groups wishing to sell items to raise money are welcome to set up booths or tents at the festival, Sanders said.

"What we want is to pull all of that together," he said. (Click here to visit the Old West Ranch victims assistance Facebook group).

Marget Willer, local center director for The Salvation Army, said 100 percent of all donations would go toward assisting victims of the West Fire.

Willer said cash donations were needed more than anything right now.

Kern Red Cross C.E.O. Holly Arnold said donations were coming in from "all over the United States."

"It's all staying here for you," Arnold said.

Kevin McCarthy, republican Congressman for California's 22nd District, visited Old West Ranch Monday with county fire chief Nick Dunn.

McCarthy said he saw a spray-painted sign posted not far from where the fire began reading, "Thank God for the fire department. God bless you."

"Now is the tough work," said McCarthy, who worked as a seasonal Kern County firefighter for three summers between 1984 and 1986.

Throughout the 90-minute meeting, community members applauded loudly whenever a speaker or audience member thanked fire crews for their efforts.

McCarthy said he would pledge $1,000 toward fundraising efforts to help fire victims.

Marty Pay, local Farmers Insurance agent, said his company would also be sending a check for $1,000 to Tehachapi to aide fire victims.

Tehachapi Mini Storage has offered free storage for up to 90 days for victims of the fire.

Trader Bo's Western & Workwear is allowing fire victims to try on, and walk away with, new jeans, shirts or hats.

A Concerts in the Park event on Sunday, Aug. 1 netted $429 toward relief efforts, Terri Asher said.

Country Oaks Baptist Church reportedly has more than 100 people signed up to volunteer in any rebuilding or fundraising efforts.

Tehachapi Mayor Linda Vernon called the community's efforts "phenomenal."

"It's just a demonstration of the remarkable city we live in," Vernon said.

Georgiana Armstrong, emergency services manager for the Kern County Fire Department, said victims might be able to receive aid from a small business administration declaration, which the county will receive word of after federal officials asses damages in Old West Ranch this week.

"We really have our hopes set on that," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the county's engineering and survey services department would attempt to expedite any efforts needed to allow property owners to begin rebuilding at Old West Ranch.

"It's not going to be business as usual," she said.

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