Food truck 'strike team' feeds fire victims | News | Palo Alto Online |


Food truck 'strike team' feeds fire victims

Palo Alto business representatives, utilities workers and firefighters bring aid after Northern California wildfire

Making an arduous journey through miles of traffic and passing through a terrain of burned cars in a charred landscape, food-truck vendors from Palo Alto, along with representatives from the City of Palo Alto and Stanford Federal Credit Union, arrived to feed the victims of the Middletown fire on Monday, Sept. 28.

The five food-truck vendors are the latest local group to arrive in the devastated Northern California wildfire areas with the goal to aid fire victims, many of whom lost their homes. The vendors were preceded by crews from Palo Alto Utilities, who helped restore power where major transmission lines and power generators were severely damaged, and Palo Alto firefighters who fought the blazes.

The food-truck contingent served up free meals starting at noon, and they'll continue throughout the day until the food is gone, said Stanford Federal Credit Union spokeswoman Margaret Wold, who was on scene. The credit union is funding $12,000 for vendors' transportation and food costs, which will feed about 1,000 people, she said.

Red Rooster, Adam's Grub Truck, Sam's Chowder, Curry Up Now and 3 Brothers Kitchen are offering Mexican, Asian-American fusion, seafood, Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine to victims, relief workers and volunteers. The one-day effort is being coordinated with Lake County and the American Red Cross.

Simon Williams, Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services GIS administration specialist, conceived the idea and was also in Middletown on Monday. Within days of the Valley Fire, he was able to secure the funding and trucks and coordinated with the relief agencies.

"By combining forces we can make a stronger impact and help more people at one time. Individually these food trucks felt they could do little to help, as travel and gas costs alone are extremely costly. However, with the support of the Credit Union and the strike team plan, we are able to pull together to help the community at large," Williams said in a statement through the Red Cross.

Viet Nguyen of 3 Brothers Kitchen was the first to arrive on scene at the Lake County Local Assistance Center in Middletown at about 11:30 a.m. His truck is serving curried chicken, banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) and a shrimp fry, among other Southeast Asian dishes.

The three-hour commute through often heavy traffic is worth the effort, he said. Along the way, he and the other vendors glimpsed the devastation: charred hillsides.

"We knew that we are definitely here for a cause — and for the right cause," Nguyen said.

The Valley Fire is the third largest in California history, with more than 76,000 acres burned and nearly 2,000 structures destroyed, including 1,200 homes, according to the Red Cross.

Combined with the Butte Fire, more than 200 square miles have burned. To put that in perspective, Palo Alto is 26 square miles, noted Catherine Elvert, Palo Alto Utilities spokeswoman, whose department sent a crew on Sept. 24.

The fires have damaged some of the power plants, major electric transmission and distribution lines and generating facilities that supply power to Palo Alto. The utilities belong to the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA), a nonprofit joint powers agency representing 15 cities and their power-supply needs, including Palo Alto, she said.

The city did not experience any power disruption because of the damaged facilities, Elvert noted. Palo Alto manages a diverse energy portfolio, and it was able to tap into other sources to make up for any losses from the damaged facilities.

Five staff members from Electric Operations, including a supervisor, departed on Sept. 23 for Healdsburg, where they were framing and setting poles to allow restringing electric wire. The crews returned today from the Geysers area shortly before lunchtime and were sent home to rest, she said.

The Palo Alto Fire Department also sent two fire engines and crews as part of two separate Santa Clara County strike teams to help battle the Butte and Valley fires earlier in September.

The crews worked 24-hour rotations to help contain the blazes, searched for missing persons and protected homes, Elvert said. The department used off-duty firefighters and reserve fire engines to fill in for the departed crew members, which ensured smooth operations for Palo Alto and Stanford University.

In Middletown, Wold said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived on Monday to start issuing checks so that people can rebuild their lives, and that seems to be helping morale. Despite their losses, it's apparent the community is tight, she said.

"Under the circumstances, the people are uplifting. It's like, 'OK. Let's move on; let's move forward.' ... They're keeping their chins up," she said.

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16 people like this
Posted by Bike commuter
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 28, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Thank you Stanford Credit Union, food trucks, City of Palo Alto Fire and Utilities!!!

I have many fond memories of summers at Clear Lake as a child.

I send my sympathies to those who have lost loved ones, pets, homes and their community.

10 people like this
Posted by Good news
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 29, 2015 at 9:04 am

It's wonderful to read about charitable work like this. The food truck owners and Stanford Federal Credit Union should be applauded for thinking of others in their time of need. Thank you for stepping up. We need more of this kind of action in the world

Like this comment
Posted by litgal
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 29, 2015 at 11:42 am

Like Bike commuter above, I have many happy memories of family vacations spent at a small resort called Pine Grove at Cobb. There was a large Berkeley contingent there in the old days & my cousin, who had a vacation home at Cobb, has lost it in the recent fire. So thank you local people for pitching in to help out the fire victims.

Like this comment
Posted by Shelby
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Thank you, Palo Alto et. al.! After 25 years in PA, we now live in Calistoga where I volunteered for five 12 hour shifts with the Red Cross helping evacuees at the shelter on the Napa County fair grounds in Calistoga: the whole thing has been an epic event - most seeking help, that I saw, had little more than the clothes on their backs when they fled for their lives!! Your generosity and kindness will long be remembered and appreciated❤️

Like this comment
Posted by Fire survivor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2015 at 6:49 pm

Lost my home in a previous major fire disaster in California and learned a lot through the recovery process. I would love to help. If anyone local is coordinating more help, please provide a contact here.

I can tell you frankly that most people don't know what they need when they go through something like that. The people who volunteered to help who had been through it before and pushed help on us that we didn't even realize we needed, or gave us things we didn't know we needed and said we could always donate it later - that helped the most.

Even if you have insurance, starting with absolutely nothing but the clothing on your back is really hard. It's surprising the number of people who will talk about your life being wiped away like it's a "fresh start." It's not a "fresh start" , for most people it's a giant setback. It's kind of like saying it would be great to be where dreams come true - imagining daydreams, not real actual dreams coming true which is more like nightmares.

In the years since, new technology could solve problems that otherwise could affect some people for the rest of their lives, and I want to help provide that help, but I can't do it alone. Anyone?

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