When the Almeda fire roared through southern Oregon in 2020, many residents were left homeless. And while still reeling from the trauma, they had to find and navigate programs that provide food, shelter, and other support.
“It’s so much … that you kind of need someone to be there with you,” says Jose Yañez of the Firebrand Resiliency Collective.
The organization helps connect fire victims with state agencies, local nonprofits, and other support services through its “Zone Captains” program.
As a bilingual zone captain, Yañez says he helps make sure that language barriers do not prevent Spanish-speaking people from getting help. And he provides personal introductions to agency staff when possible.
“I think that is something that is really needed nowadays is warm handoffs and people to be human,” he says.
He also continues advocating for fire victims, even after making an initial referral.
“As zone captains, we actually check in with the people that we refer, to make sure that everything is going according to how they were wanting it to go,” Yañez says. “We’re here for the survivor, not for the agencies.”
So the zone captain model connects people with material resources and reassures them that someone’s in their corner, supporting their recovery.
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media