1,300 Camp Fire survivors headed to Gridley

The quiet community prepares for a big population surge as FEMA constructs 400 housing units this Summer.

Posted: Jun 17, 2019 3:38 PM
Updated: Jun 17, 2019 8:31 PM

GRIDLEY, Calif. - The City of Gridley is about to see a huge population surge.

“We will be adding about a thousand people to the population - 1,300 - people to the population very suddenly in the next 30 to 45 days,” said FEMA spokesperson Rebecca Kelly.

400 housing units are opening in August, the largest Camp Fire FEMA site yet. And it may mean that nearly all Camp Fire survivors have a place to live.

But people who live in Gridley worry this small, quiet community may not have room for a 17% population jump.

There aren’t a lot of jobs.

“I’ve been here 30 years and it was always hard for me to find something adequate in this community,” said one Gridley woman.

Twenty percent of the 1,400 people who will be in Gridley for at least a year are kids. 

“I don’t think there is space, it’s always been tight for even raising my children here – just in the high school alone we do not have a cafeteria set up there,” she explained.

Some small business owners are hopeful that this is great news for the local economy.

But with one hospital and just a handful or full-time police and firefighters, Gridley will have to find a way to adjust.

So far, they've added two community resource officers to help out the police department.

And FEMA says it will keep working with the city to make this a smooth transition.

“I don’t think enough thought has gone into how housing them will tax this community,” the woman said.

“This is an opportunity for you to embrace someone who has had the most traumatic event of their life-time happen and we’re hoping the community opens their arms to these people,” Kelly said.

The FEMA site will stay in place for at least 18 months after the fire broke out – but Cal OES may extend that time frame if survivors can’t find permanent homes.

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