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It’s easy for most of us to look back on a specific span of 365 days and toss it into a “good” or “bad” category. “Oh man, 2012 was the worst,” you may have thought, because your relationships or finances or “Gangnam Style” parody video didn’t go the way you had planned. Even if you look beyond your personal circumstances and at the bigger picture, you’ve probably written off a certain year or three as absolute turdfests.
And because many news outlets and water cooler conversations seem to focus on all of the negatives that occur throughout the world, stories telling of large groups of everyday people helping their fellow humans in times of crisis are often overshadowed. Which sucks, because those efforts can be pretty damn incredible. Take 2018, for example -- despite all of the horrible things that happened during that year, some collective badasses stepped up and restored our faith in humanity.
Hundreds Of People Skip Thanksgiving To Search For Wildfire Victims
November 2018 was not a good month for California. That was when the state, and particularly the town of Paradise, was devastated by Camp Fire. Which unfortunately had nothing to do with s’more-making and everything to do with being not only the worst wildfire in California’s history, but also one of the worst ever. It razed more than 10,000 buildings, left tens of thousands of people displaced, and at one point the number of people reported missing was over 1,000. To make matters worse, as if a product of Hephaestus’ and Zeus’ morbid joke, rain and heavy winds added the severe threat of massive mudslides to the already horrific, fiery equation.
Yet when everything seemed at its bleakest, a bunch of average civilians decided to get together, roll up their sleeves and dig in. Literally.
Hundreds of volunteers chose to sign up and help rather than sit back in the comfort of their hopefully-not-in-danger-of-being-burned-to-the-ground homes. They scoured the site of the disaster, which was basically a terrifying hellscape consisting of mountains of ash and rivers of mud, trying to find any salvageable remains of the victims. And that proved to be difficult, not only given the conditions under which they had to conduct their search, but because the fire was so intense it had completely disintegrated some of the bodies.
Undeterred, the group continued searching, right up until Thanksgiving when they ... just kept searching. While the rest of America was enjoying family, gluttony, and probably wondering what the hell ever happened to the Galloping Gobbler, many were left without so much as a fork to stab cooked turkey flesh with. And the volunteers weren’t about to call it quits when all of these people had just lost the very things they had been thankful for.
Oh, and the charity group World Central Kitchen showed up to prepare some 10,000-15,000 Thanksgiving meals for those who were affected by Camp Fire. We have no idea how much food, effort and compassion it takes to put together 10,000 dishes for victims of catastrophe out of temporary shelters, but some quick math leads us to believe it’s somewhere between “a lot” and “enough to make Gordon Ramsay cry.”
The Bucket Brigade Digs People Back Into Their Homes After Mudslides
Wildfires are not a required ingredient in the creation of mudslides like the ones that occurred during Camp Fire, but they certainly help. Just ask the people of Southern California, who after dealing with wildfires in December of 2017 were informed the very next month that the fires had destroyed a lot of the vegetation holding the ground together, a bunch of rain was coming, and they needed to get the hell out of there if they didn’t want to be buried alive in mud.
As with any mass evacuation order, however, just up and leaving your home can’t or doesn’t happen for many people for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, when those warnings come true, the results are pretty harrowing if you don’t make it out in time. And even if you do, you’re still returning to unfathomable damage to everything you own.
Enter the Bucket Brigade, which almost sounds like a throwaway comic book idea for a team of bucket-wielding crime-fighters, until you remember that’s the term for how fires used to be put out. Also, this is specifically the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, so named because, well, they were in Santa Barbara helping people dig their devastated homes and cars and personal effects out from under several feet of mud, one bucket at a time.
The group was founded by Abe Powell, director of the Montecito Fire Protection District. So while it did consist of a large collection of volunteers who normally don’t deal with this sort of thing, there was some structure in place. But basically, it was a matter of digging their way to the front door, then rescuing the cars, and finally cleaning out the interior of the home as well as the perimeter around it. That may not sound like a very complete job, but if you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a mudflow first-hand, it becomes fairly obvious how hefty of a task it actually is.
The hefty kind of hefty.
In the end, it means that the 2,000 volunteers who showed up over the course of several months helped save homeowners about $1 million in cleanup and repair costs. That’s pretty damn impressive.
The Fishermen Who Used Their Personal Fleet Of Boats To Rescue Flood Victims
India, unfortunately, is no stranger to the effects of monsoons. The conditions are just right in that part of the world, like the winds are playing in some giant ball pit where everyone is tempermental and doesn’t know where to go or what to do, then eventually some jerk gets so frustrated he pisses all over the place and everything is ruined.
OK, so it’s more complicated than that, but you get the idea. Well, in August of 2018, Kerala, India was hit with some heavy rainfall that monsoons are very well known for. This time, however, the torrential rain caused disastrous flash floods, resulting in hundreds of deaths and around a million people being displaced.
Upon hearing that there simply weren’t enough boats to get around and rescue people, a bunch of fishermen got together and immediately joined hands (boats?) to assist in the mission. They not only donated the use of their own personal vessels, but also braved the waters themselves, directly assisting in the rescue operation. One girl even stated: “We were saved by fishermen. If it wasn’t for them, we would’ve died inside the house. We were in there for almost 72 hours.”
Well done, fishermen. Hearing this story makes us all hope that if there’s ever a terrible blizzard and people are stranded, the local snowmobile clubs will band together and find those of us still stranded in our homes before we run out of the expired Spam we’re cooking over our Altoids tin candle stove.
Like this article? Check out “Incredible Charity Work Done By … Wait, Organized Crime?” and “5 Times People Looked Disasters In The Face … And Had Their Big Day Anyway”.