Camp Fire philanthropist survives Greenville evacuation

Ken Donnell, known for his philanthropic efforts after the Camp Fire, survives evacuating Greenville. Now, all that remains for Donnell is his truck and the clothes on his back.

Posted: Aug 8, 2021 7:19 PM
Updated: Aug 9, 2021 11:56 AM

PLUMAS COUNTY, Calif. - The Dixie Fire has been burning for nearly a month.

It has since impacted four counties and damaged communities along the way.

Even after preparing for the flames, Greenville local Ken Donnell only has two items left: his truck and the clothes on his back.

“I actually had a getaway car packed up with all my precious things that I kept carefully packed for almost two weeks,” Donnell explained. “And then right at the last moment, I got called away on this trivial errand that seemed so important at the moment. I looked at the smoke and I thought I had time to head to Quincy and back before anything could happen.”

But little did he know that by the time he got back, it was too late.

“By the time I made it back to Greenville, the sheriff stopped me at the edge of town and just screamed at me,” Donnell continued. “He said that I was going to die if I went any further. I think he was right. There was just nothing. It was over.”

Even before all the destruction left by the Dixie Fire, Donnell was on the other side of the disaster by helping survivors after the Camp Fire broke out in 2018.

RELATED: Dixie Fire: California's Governor Newsom visited Greenville on Saturday

“As I’m getting to the intersection of Highway 32 and Bruce Rd., I see the line of cars. I realized what needed to be done,” Donnell reflected.

After that sight and talking with survivors, Donnell started a service center called “Miracle City” which provided essential supplies to those in need.

Now losing his own community, Donnell says this amount of fire destruction is normal.

“This now is normal, and we need to recognize that reality,” he said. “Now I’m fully aware that the greatest adventures of my life really are ahead of me. I just have to get through this pain that we are all feeling right now.”

But the effort to rebuild won’t fall only on Donnell’s back.

After the governor’s visit to Greenville on Saturday, Donnell and his community can rest assured that there will be state support behind them.

Donnell told Action News Now that there will be Greenville Dixie Fire refugee relief supplies in the Susanville Grocery Outlet parking lot for a pop-up relief center at 6 p.m. Sunday night.

Click here for a link to Ken Donnell's GoFundMe page.

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