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In late July, the Carr fire burned through Shasta and Trinity Counties in far-northern California. Driven by dry fuels, hot temperatures and high winds, it became a "fire tornado," jumping the Sacramento River and sweeping through neighborhoods in Redding, the region's largest city. Nearly half of Redding's population had to evacuate and more than 1,000 homes were destroyed. Eight people, including three fire fighters, died.These are stories of how the Carr fire affected the Redding area and some of the challenges facing the recovery effort.

Volunteer Chefs Bring Gourmet Food To Redding Fire Victims

Liam Moriarty/JPR NEws
Volunteers for World Central Kitchen prepare meals to be distributed to 5,000 Redding-area evacuees and responders affected by the Carr fire.

When disasters strike, access to food is a top priority. With thousands still displaced by the Carr fire near Redding, the volunteer chefs of World Central Kitchen believe canned soup and bologna sandwiches aren’t enough.

In a commercial kitchen in downtown Redding, volunteers are slicing up pans of fresh herbed focaccia bread. Chef Jason Collis is overseeing today’s lunch:

"We’re doing Italian sausage and pepper pasta, with a sun-dried tomato pesto sauce."

Add in the cranberry-almond salad, fresh fruit and focaccia, and you’ve got a meal that’s a far cry from your standard disaster rations. Collis is with World Central Kitchen, a global non-profit network of chefs who believe gourmet-quality food can heal, not only the body, but the soul. 

"It brings back memories of grandma’s Italian sausage and peppers. And those little moments there help in a time of need," he says.

Collis runs a catering business in Ventura, California. He says when the massive Thomas fire struck there last winter, he saw the difference good food made in his community. The project is also meant to put cash into the local economy at time when many businesses are disrupted.

"For instance," Collis says, "we’re here at Sizzle’s Kitchen in Redding, and we’re renting the commercial kitchen space from them. We don’t bring in all of our equipment, we purchase from local purveyors.” 

The Redding operation is making about 5,000 meals a day that go to Red Cross shelters and to emergency responders on the front line.

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.