Cal OES Reports Camp for Children Begins Recovery Process After Bear Fire in Butte County, California

August 30, 2021 – For thousands of childhood cancer patients, siblings and parents, Camp Okizu was considered a home away from home.

Okizu comes from the Sioux language and means unity, coming together, healing from a pain, making whole.

The Lodge at Camp Okizu

But healing is what those who love Camp Okizu are doing now after the Bear Fire destroyed the camp last year. The Bear Fire, part of the North Complex, consumed 318,930 acres, destroyed 2,455 and damaged 113 structures.

For nearly four decades, Camp Okizu has welcomed families affected by childhood cancer to participate in various in-person programs.

Suzie Randall, Camp Okizu Executive Director, believes the people involved, from attendees to volunteers, have helped make this place so special.

“It feels like being in a big family and really just an opportunity to create a space where kids and families going through something similar can share. They can receive and support each other.”

Remains of a structure at Camp Okizu

Both the Bear Fire and COVID-19 closed the camp for in-person programs, but Camp Okizu leadership found a way to keep the kids connected.

They created a virtual camp with ‘happy camper kits’ full of activities for the kids to use during virtual camping or while spending time with the family.

After a request from Butte County, Camp Okizu was recently admitted to the state’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program, which primarily clears debris and dangerous trees from residential lots. The camp spans over 325 acres and requires the removal of debris from several buildings.

Necessary assessments and other precursors to debris removal are already taking place prior to the actual removal of structural debris, a major milestone for the Berry Creek community.

“The state is fortunate to have such dedicated federal and local partners who share a commitment to serve the communities most affected by these devastating wildfires,” said Cal OES Deputy Director Ryan Buras. “We are committed to doing everything we can to expedite the reconstruction of Camp Okizu so that it can continue to provide programs and services in a supportive environment to the community it serves.”

Pre-pandemic, the camp saw nearly 800 children over 7 week-long sessions and despite the challenges they currently face, Camp Okizu hopes to rebuild.

“We hope to be able to rebuild and we hope it will be at our Berry Creek location,” Randall said. “This wouldn’t be possible without the people at Butte County, Butte County Office of Emergency Management and the people at Cal OES who really make this possible, and this means more than we can say.”

Stay tuned as Cal OES continues to track Camp Okizu on its road to recovery.
Source: Cal YES

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