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RECAMFT's Disaster Response Team

Equipo de respuesta a desastres de RECAMFT

October 8-9, 2017 is a date that will live in infamy....

Our community was devastated by a series of wildfires which burned through many neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, California, during the night of Oct. 8-9, 2017. The fires continued for a full two weeks, with 50K people evacuated. Eventually, over 5K homes were destroyed, along with thousands of other buildings, and businesses. 

Fortunately, RECAMFT was ready and jumped into action. 

We offered a disaster mental health training for helping professions the week after the fires began. We video-taped it, and you can see it here

We immediately got a group of about 100 therapists to offer 3-5 free sessions of counseling for fire survivors. This service continues, and you can find a counselor here

RECAMFT offered grief groups weekly for seven months after the fires. We offered trauma-informed yoga, and forest bathing walks

We joined with other professional groups, and Healthcare Foundation, to start a fund-raising effort for mental health needs in our community. Recovering from what is the largest wildfire disaster in modern California/US history will take time. And RECAMFT is in this for the long haul. 

We had practice with the Valley Fire

On the afternoon of Sept. 12, 2015, the Valley Fire erupted in dry Lake County.  Within a five hours it spread to 10,000 acres. By the next day, it ravaged 50,000 acres and destroyed most of Middletown, Cobb, Whispering Pines and the south end of Hidden Valley Lake. Ultimately, the fire grew to 76,000 acres in Lake, Sonoma and Napa counties. 

RECAMFT responded to this disaster by offering day-long drop-in counseling the following Saturday. More than fifty RECAMFT members volunteered 3-5 free sessions of counseling for anyone affected by the fire. 

Above: (L-R) Gail van Buuren, Jeannie Vattuone, and Kim-Lien Chavez. 

RECAMFT responded to the challenges of the Valley Fire (Sept. 12, 2015), by creating a Disaster Response Team. The team can work intimately with the local branch of the American Red Cross to respond to disasters in our area. 

Whenever the Red Cross opens aAmerican Red Cross logo shelter, one requirement is there must be a mental health professional at the shelter in addition to medical personnel. This means RECAMFT members have the opportunity to play an important role in responding to the many challenges which face our area, including floods, fires, shootings, earthquakes, etc. 

Under the direction of team leader, Doreen Van Leeuwen, below are some pictures of the team having fun at our inaugural training. To join the Disaster Response Team (new volunteers are ALWAYS welcome!) please contact

Above: (L-R) Laura Strom and Doreen Van Leeuwen.  CISM stands for Critical Incident Stress Management.

Here are some short videos that help paint the picture of the Oct. 2017 fires, and why our community is still so traumatized. 

Read about RECAMFT's role in several thoughtful articles produced by the Press Democrat. 

Psychological scars from October wildfires cut deep in Sonoma County - by Martin Espinoza, July 28, 2018.

‘Uncontrollable flashbacks’: Mental anguish remains six months after North Bay fires - by Martin Espinoza, April 8, 2018.

Mental health collaborative tackles fire-related trauma in Sonoma County - by Martin Espinoza, March 4, 2018.

We are very proud of the Press Democrat for winning a Pulitzer Prize, the highest award in journalism for their "lucid and tenacious" coverage of the Oct. 2017 fires. Congratulations, Press Democrat! RECAMFT is grateful to Martin Espinoza for writing articles that address the mental health needs of our community! 

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