Here’s what you can do – and not do – to help Mariposa fire victims

As Merced residents watched the plume of smoke from the Detwiler fire from Mariposa move closer to home, people began organizing on social media to help Mariposa residents and animals who evacuated.

A Facebook group called Detwiler Fire Support Group quickly grew to 300 members Tuesday. Community members sought volunteers, donations and offered other services.

Others, like Garcia Brothers Trucking in Planada, offered their lot for people to store their large vehicles, including RVs and campers. Tony Garcia, whose family owns the local company, said the tragedy in Mariposa “really hits close to home.”

“Growing up here, born and raised in Planada, (Mariposa) is always a rival in school sports and things like that and they’re our neighbors just right up the hill,” Garcia told the Sun-Star. “We’re offering whatever we can to help people, our neighbors. You always want to help people, especially in situations like this.”

A specific group for animal services, called Mariposa Community Relief Efforts for Animals, also popped up. Members posted offering spaces for livestock and seeking dog and cat crates, as well as food.

Several people posted their personal phone numbers and addresses in the comment section of the Sun-Star’s Facebook page, offering rooms in their houses, RV parking and more. One commenter offered a disclaimer: “No druggies or child molesters.”

The Red Cross set up multiple shelters for evacuees and their animals.

Red Cross shelters were available Tuesday at Caesar Chavez Junior High at 161 S. Plainsburg Road in Planada. Two more were set up in Oakhurst - at the Evangelical Free Church, 50443 School Road (427), and the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, 39696 Highway 41.

Anyone with large animals can call Belinda at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, where an evacuation shelter has been established, at (559) 676-3702.

The best way to help the Red Cross is through financial donations, said Jessica Piffero, a Red Cross public information officer.

Although clothing and food donations are appreciated and won’t be turned away, the Red Cross already is equipped with supplies for any type of situation, she said.

The Red Cross cannot accept home-cooked meals because of public health and safety rules, she said.

“We have everything we need,” she said. “We prepare for disasters all year long.”

Donations could be made to the Red Cross at www.redcross.org or by calling the local chapter office in Fresno at 559-455-1000.

Finding shelter for the thousands of displaced Mariposa men and women could prove challenging. More than a dozen hotels between Merced and Turlock all confirmed they were booked completely Tuesday night. Just two hotels said they had a few beds left as of 6:40 p.m., but those also were expected to go fast.

In Planada, community members gathered to offer their help at the Red Cross shelter at Cesar Chavez Junior High School on Plainsburg Road.

A shelter was set up in Oakhurst at the Evangelical Free Church, which quickly filled. A second Oakhurst shelter will be available at Sierra Presbyterian Church at 3696 Highway 41.

Rob Parsons contributed to this report.

Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477