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Camp Fire survivor recounts the makeshift Walmart shelter in Chico

Hundreds of survivors took refuge from the raging Camp Fire at the Chico Walmart parking lot. Action News Now reporter Jafet Serrato spoke to one of those survivors about this past year.

Posted: Nov 7, 2019 6:26 PM

CHICO, Calif. - Hundreds of survivors took refuge from the raging Camp Fire at the Chico Walmart parking lot. Action News Now reporter Jafet Serrato spoke to one of those survivors about this past year.

“It was like an apocalyptic situation, first of all, it was smoky,” said Luigi Balsamo, a Camp Fire survivor.


Luigi Balsamo will never forget November 8th, 2018.

“It was scary I know it's only one year out but even then we were sitting there wondering what would become of those people a month out, six months, a year, 6 years,” Balsamo said.

He took to social media and raised money to buy tents, clothes and food.


“It was really just a big blur but it was adrenaline, long hours and it was hard to stop because there were people piling in here without clothes, without a home," Balsamo said.


Lori Mason is a psychiatric nurse practitioner for Feather River Health Center.


She says many of her patients ended up in the Walmart parking lot.


“They were very traumatized and chaotic they went there, I don’t even know why they ended up there some of them. And they don’t even know why they ended up there,” Mason said.


Mason says she and her co-workers couldn’t get back into the clinic but that didn’t stop them from helping.

“Our psychiatrist at the time a doctor went to the Walmart parking lot and saw a lot of our patients and even people who weren’t our patients to provide care for them at the time,” Mason said.

“It was really sad because they had lost everything they had owned and they had no place to go it was cold,” said Terri McKenna, a woman who donated supplies to the Walmart m 
Balsamo says he’ll always remember how the community came together to help those hundreds of people – huddled together and says he’ll keep on helping them as long as he’s able.


“I think both the city of Chico and Walmart itself did a really good stepping up,” Balsamo said.

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