In early October, one of the most damaging wildfires in California’s history reduced part of our beloved Enchanted Hills Camp to ash and smoke. It destroyed most of Lower Camp, including staff housing, cabins that house hundreds of campers each summer and the beloved Redwood Grove Theater stage, as well as parts of Upper Camp.
Yet a good part of camp did survive, thanks to the courage of Los Angeles Fire Engine #98. These firefighters risked their lives to save as much of camp as they could and are now, as we write this, in harm’s way as they fight the treacherous fires in Southern California.
We can never thank these brave firefighters enough for the perilous work they did to save Enchanted Hills for blind campers. But in mid-November, we tried. Camp staffer Chris Lawyer and his partner, Jessica Marenoff visited LAFD #98 to give thanks in person on behalf of the LightHouse. The couple’s feelings for Enchanted Hills Camp run particularly deep: not only did they meet at the camp, but, tragically, they lost their onsite home and all their possessions in the fire.
“It was very important for us to thank them, not only on behalf of the LightHouse and Enchanted Hills, but for me and Jess personally, for saving the camp we love so much, that has so much meaning to our story,” says Chris, who has since relocated to Fairfield with fellow EHC site staff member Matt Beard and their partners.
They arrived at the Los Angeles fire station with hearts full of gratitude for what was saved and had an eminently satisfying conversation with Alexander Hermann, one of the first responders at EHC. Hermann told Chris and Jess about the fire crew’s efforts to save EHC, describing the first thing the crew saw when they arrived: the Staff House (Chris and Jess’ home) had already burned down and was still smoking.
He recounted how the crew worked their way through the camp, extinguishing as many flames as possible, despite obstacles like large trees blocking the road that had to be cut up and removed. They got to the Redwood Grove Theater just as fire was destroying the stage, but were able to save the hand-carved benches made by blind woodworker George Wurtzel. Alexander felt compelled to leave a touching note at the entrance to the theater: “We saved this, wish we could have saved more.” Alex wrote the note himself and went to post it on the sign, to which his fire chief laughed and said, “You can’t leave that with the bad handwriting.”
As Chris told him of camp’s history and founder Rose Resnick and described all the site staff do at Enchanted Hills, Alex and his team were amazed by everything that camp offers and symbolizes for the blind community. They expressed to us their sadness for what we lost: “We really wish we could have done more,” he said, echoing his sentiments from the handwritten note.
We’re so thankful for the work of these valiant firefighters, for everything they fought to save and everything they succeeded in protecting. Now it’s our turn to do the work. So many of you have expressed your sorrow for the destruction at camp. So many have asked what you can do.
Start right now by making a tax-deductible gift to support our rebuilding efforts. The year is almost over, so don’t wait to donate!
Now, more than ever, Enchanted Hills needs your support and donations. To give by mobile device, text REBUILDEHC to 501-55.
p.s. Every dollar donated is tax-deductible and will go to ensuring that the coming years will bring new growth and opportunity for blind campers. Donate or contact Jennifer Sachs at 415-694-7333 or firstname.lastname@example.org and tell her you want to help “Rebuild EHC.”