Valley News -

By Diane Sieker

Cranston Fire brings out the best in residents


Last updated 8/9/2018 at 1:22am

Diane Sieker

Community Hall president Noel Donahue and Dalia Lammon keep notes on supplies and people assisted during the electrical outage caused by the Cranston Fire.

The days during the aftermath of the Cranston Fire brought out the very best in residents of the close-knit mountain communities that were affected by the disaster. 

From watching out for neighbors, watering others' animals, delivering food and bottled water and fixing generators, to acquiring food, organizing the shelters, bringing supplies to those without transportation, strangers helping neighbors helping friends was the norm during the power outage.

While it is impossible to feature every single generous soul, several names have risen to the surface in the talk about town.

Missy Carver Boulton was one of the tireless souls putting in over 18 hours a day to cook food for people coming into the Community Hall for news, supplies, AC and power.

"Missy demonstrated her constant support of the community in any way she could, at any hour and that really impressed me," said Aguanga resident Nancy Myers. "She's amazing and a true asset to this community."

Erinne Roscoe, program director for KOYT FM 97.1 was inspired by the willingness of people to perform selfless acts. 

"I am so proud of our mountain right now," Roscoe said. "So many heroes out there even right now helping where help is needed. As Bill Donahue said to me earlier, 'we hope anyone who needs help asks for it,' so many are out there willing to help!"

In Anza, the Community Hall buzzed with activity. Supplies arrived and were dispersed to the needy. Hall President Noel Donahue tirelessly arranged for donations of food, water, ice, toiletries, diapers, wipes, blankets and more from such large donors as Wal-Mart and several food banks. Volunteers from all over the affected areas came to help the needy and delivered to those unable to pick up supplies on their own.

According to an Anza Community Hall Facebook page posting, an enormous act of kindness was given that affected the entire community. 

"Every time I am amazed by one person's generosity, another person surpasses it," the post said. "I alerted my friend, Cici Capps, to our need of a refrigerated truck to keep the ice from melting before we can distribute it. She put out the word and Cheryl Sicher of Serving Christ Personally provided one for us to use. I had only met Cheryl once, before today and then only briefly, but she handed me the keys to her new refrigerator truck. Thank you, Jesus. We have ice and food to give out at the Community Hall."

Breana Schmidt described her Hall experience, "Everyone helped at the community center every day with no regard for themselves, only thinking of being there for people in the community."

Sean Holmquist, who assisted with food and water deliveries and generator repairs noted that there were others who worked nonstop to assist others in need.

"Todd Morse was consistently at the hall working his butt off," he said.

"We need to add Tracy Boulton to the list," Bill Donahue commented. "In the middle of this event, he recounted his stories of what he went through, going to the homes I sent him to for deliveries and I laughed so hard my side was hurting. We all were so tired we needed a good laugh and Tracy let it be at his expense. Also, he survived making those deliveries, so he gets points for that."

"Everyone that prayed for Tracy Boulton to lose his voice, those are the real heroes," Eric Richardson said, joking about Boulton's reputation for entertaining the masses with silly jokes and stories.

Meanwhile, outside the Hall, Lisa and Amanda Gardner and Blue Romero took it upon themselves to collect and distribute clothing and household goods. They sat out on the asphalt under a bright blue canopy in 107-degree weather every day, offering their collection free of charge to anyone in need.

As generators came out to power refrigerators, freezers and lights, it soon became obvious that some were not up for the job. Units needing maintenance, carburetor rebuilds or cleanings, and tuneups put many elderly and disadvantaged people at risk. Russell Kitchen jumped into action and gathered together some of the best mechanics in Anza to perform repairs for free. Dozens of generators were fixed pro bono, providing power and comfort.

But Kitchen refused to take any credit for his actions.

"This is about a town coming together as a community, something that we have lost and we need to take this and run with it," he said. "We need to make Anza great again."

Teri Morelli of Aguanga, along with her disabled son Zaakry, were left without power. The two benefited from neighbors and a kind man that helped her with a generator issue.

"Everybody pitched in," she said.

Rob Thompson of Anza noticed a person who diligently watered someone's horses for them while they were away.

"There were people who did anonymous acts of kindness whose names we may never know," he said.

Off Wilson Valley Road in Anza, Ron and Debbie Skinner opened their hearts and gates to people in need of water, serving dozens a day. Their well was operational due to working generators. 

In Pinyon, there was a problem with certain underserved people unable to get transportation to shelters in Anza for water, food and incidentals. 

Cadi Thayer explained, "Jessica Bell-Uribe and her husband went and purchased Igloo coolers, filled them with ice and drove around giving them out to those in need. They also provided food to these people."

Thayer was under evacuation orders and the confusion and chaos associated with moving large animals. "Jessica let me bombard her place with my critters for our evacuation, helped haul my animals so it was less stress on me, fed us dinner and that's with all my kids," she said. "They are a fantastic family! Then Jenn Ireland got a hold of Congressman Ruiz to get relief and support here in the Pinyon area at the fire station on Hwy. 74." 

The fire station was equipped with supplies within hours of Ireland's call, thanks to the responsiveness of Ruiz's personnel.

Eric Richardson, Keith Richardson, Jason Evans, Fernando Gomez and family were barely seen as they ran around town, hooking up people's generators and power everywhere they could for anyone they could fit in. They delivered water and bought and fetched repair parts down the hill.

Diane Sieker

Russell Kitchen takes a break from repairing generators pro bono and plays with little Evelyn Schmidt during the electrical outage caused by the Cranston Fire.

The Red Cross manned the high school, offering showers, food and water to those in need. A friendly, helpful atmosphere permeated the gym and cafeteria as staff answered questions and assisted with connecting people with resources.

The Lions offered hot dogs and hamburgers and corrals for large displaced livestock at Minor Field. Several horses happily munched donated hay throughout the hot days.

"The list is so long. Often the people who are organizing and leading get all the credit, but we can't do it alone," Bill Donahue said of the volunteers. "About five days into this event, I started trying to write down the names of the volunteers (just at the Community Hall) and I filled four pages in my notebook. I'm sure that list is missing names."

Anza and the other communities came together in the time of crisis and the stories of good deeds will continue for many years to come.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at [email protected]


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