Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Due to weather conditions on Shasta Bally, KFPR is off the air until a repair crew can reach the site safely to assess.

Could evictions by Butte County hurt the health of Bear Fire survivors? Experts say yes.

Donna Howell holds her granddaughter, McKenzie, in front of the trailer she lives in on Sept. 18, 2023. Before McKenzie was born, Howell’s doctor told her she only had six months to live. Howell has already outlived that prognosis by one month. She says she stays in Berry Creek because she wants to be close to McKenzie so her granddaughter remembers her.
Jamie Jiang
/
NSPR
Donna Howell holds her granddaughter, McKenzie, in front of the trailer she lives in on Sept. 18, 2023. Before McKenzie was born, Howell’s doctor told her she only had six months to live. Howell has already outlived that prognosis by one month. She says she stays in Berry Creek because she wants to be close to McKenzie so her granddaughter remembers her.

Read the transcript

KEN DEVOL, ANCHOR: 

At the end of the year, it could be illegal for survivors of the Bear Fire, later known as the North Complex, to live in RVs if they aren’t actively rebuilding.

An ordinance that allowed people to do so is set to expire this December.

As NSPR’s Jamie Jiang reports, the stress of possible evictions could hurt survivors’ health.

JAMIE JIANG, REPORTER:  

Donna Howell says she has about five life-threatening medical conditions.

This spring, her doctor told her she had six months left to live.

HOWELL: “I never know when it's going to be my last day on this earth. And the last thing I need to do is stress over having to move again, when I have nowhere to go.”

Even though it’s hard on her body, Howell lives in an RV on land she rents.

Three years after the Bear Fire burned down her old place, it’s all she can afford to stay in Berry Creek.

She worries about being homeless after the ordinance ends.

And she says the worrying hurts her health.

Howell’s granddaughter McKenzie in the arms of Howell’s daughter Misty Mcdivitt in front of Mcdivitt’s trailer in Berry Creek, Calif. on Sept. 18, 2023. After more than a year on a waitlist, Mcdivitt is moving from her trailer to an income-based apartment in nearby Oroville. But she says she doesn’t want to lose her trailer — the first real home her family had after the fire — as she still uses it to come look after her mother.
Jamie Jiang
/
NSPR
Howell’s granddaughter McKenzie in the arms of Howell’s daughter Misty Mcdivitt in front of Mcdivitt’s own trailer in Berry Creek, Calif. on Sept. 18, 2023. After more than a year on a waitlist, Mcdivitt is moving from her trailer to an income-based apartment in nearby Oroville. But she says she doesn’t want to lose her trailer, as she still uses it to come look after her mother. And, she says, it feels like the first real home her family had after the fire.

HOWELL: “It's like, Why? Why are they doing this to people? I just, I don't need any added stress on me anymore.”

Studies show evictions can hurt people’s mental and physical health.

But a paper published in The Lancet this summer found housing insecurity harms disaster survivors even more.

Dr. Ang Li is the main author of that paper.

LI: “The effect of insecure housing is further exacerbated due to additional stress from going through the disaster.”

Li says policymakers should be protecting survivors’ health by reducing housing insecurity.

It’s unclear whether the board of supervisors will vote to extend the ordinance.

In the case of a similar RV ordinance for unincorporated communities in the Camp Fire burn scar, the board voted to extend the deadline twice before it expired at the beginning of this year.

The town of Paradise also passed an RV ordinance.

It’s set to expire this coming April.

KEN DEVOL, ANCHOR: 

Some residents of Berry Creek are organizing in hopes that the Butte County Board of Supervisors will extend the ordinance.

They’re pushing for a vote at next Tuesday’s board meeting.

This Friday, an informational meeting will be held at the Berry Creek Community Church at 6 p.m.

Jamie is NSPR’s wildfire reporter and Report For America corps member. She covers all things fire, but her main focus is wildfire recovery in the North State. Before NSPR, Jamie was at UCLA, where she dabbled in college radio and briefly worked as podcast editor at the Daily Bruin.
Related Content