- A Walmart parking lot in Chico, California, is now the site of a makeshift evacuee camp.
- Californians fleeing the disastrous Camp Fire have gathered in the store’s parking lot.
- Volunteers have also converged in the area to help fire victims.
One group of evacuees is now living in makeshift shelters in the parking lot of a Chico, California, Walmart.
The Walmart parking lot in Chico is an impromptu city filled with Camp Fire evacuees. pic.twitter.com/KMp7xfUjKw
— Damon Arthur (@damonarthur_RS) November 14, 2018
This is what happens when a town with a population of 27,000 becomes homeless. This is an impromptu shelter and help station at a Walmart parking lot. pic.twitter.com/N4QTzwSCsc
— Dave Lee (@DaveLeeFT) November 14, 2018
Chico’s Walmart has become an outdoor free market where people have dropped off a mass of donations—clothing, food, toys, diapers—for #CampFire evacuees.
The parking lot also has become a refuge for people living in tents, cars as they await long-term help. #CaliforniaWildfires pic.twitter.com/fICINokSrB
— Dianna M. Náñez????✍???????? (@DiannaNanez) November 13, 2018
There are medical supplies, food, pet food and camping equipment. A man just approached us saying he’d driven a mobile shower unit up from Modesto (150 miles away). If you’re local, here are the details. #campfire pic.twitter.com/vEtVW9QOty
— Dave Lee (@DaveLeeFT) November 14, 2018
A photo of the tent city I described this morning on @Americas1stNews. #Paradise evacuees are camped at the local Walmart parking lot. Photo credit to local reporter @KPAYBacaSports #CampFire pic.twitter.com/sSrf0MOQ77
— MattRayTalk ????????️ (@MattRayTalk) November 14, 2018
Walmart director of communications Tiffany Wilson told Business Insider, “We are proud of how the community has rallied to respond to the needs of the fire survivors and evacuees in the wake of this devastating Camp Fire. To strengthen the community’s relief efforts, our Chico store along with Walmart stores in the surrounding communities have provided continuous support with donations of food, water, personal care items, blankets, pillows, hygiene products and other necessities.”
Wilson said that local stores have “donated funds, supplies, and merchandise to local shelters, the American Red Cross, Butte County Sheriff, Hope Center and local churches among others.”
On November 12, actor James Woods asked Walmart to keep the bathrooms in the store open for evacuees via Twitter. The company replied that it would provide fire victims with portable bathrooms, blankets, sleeping bags, and water.
Thanks James. We're with you. We've brought in a number of portable bathrooms and are providing supplies such as blankets, sleeping bags and water to fire victims sheltering in our parking lot.
— Walmart (@Walmart) November 13, 2018
Bay Area news station Kron 4 reported that volunteers were converging on the parking lot as well, passing out free meals, clothing, and water, and managing donations.
“All of us here are in the same situation – whether you lost a trailer or a really nice home, we’re all in the same place,” fire evacuee Laura Whitaker told The Chico Enterprise-Record.
Other evacuees in the camp told the local newspaper that Walmart had given them a $US100 gift card.
On its Facebook page, Walmart’s Chico location said that the company has created a foundation for Camp Fire victims. The company will reportedly donate $US500,000 to the cause.
“Walmart has been a part of the Chico community for nearly 25 years and our hearts go out to everyone affected by this natural disaster,” Wilson said in a statement to Business Insider. “We know this is a difficult time and want our customers, associates and neighbours to be safe and have the support they need.”
In response to Business Insider’s inquiry about CBS Sacramento’s report that the company asked fire victims to vacate the parking lot by 1 p.m. on Sunday, Wilson said that Walmart has not set any relocation deadlines for evacuees.
“We share the city and county’s concern for the health, safety and well-being of all the wildfire evacuees,” Wilson said. “While we are happy to have been able to provide an immediate place of escape from the wildfire, we understand that our parking lots are not a viable long-term housing solution and are working closely with the American Red Cross, the County and local organisations to best preserve the health and safety of those impacted by the Camp Fire.”