Sunday, September 13, 2009

August 2009 CPP Update

Concow Phoenix Project

Our mission is to facilitate and support sustainable recovery of the Concow community through cooperative partnerships and fundraising efforts.

Our goal is to maximize resources for fire survivors who need them.

A Community in Restoration

It is the year anniversary of the fire that ravaged Concow. I am filled with admiration for what people and organizations have done to regain quality of life, with wonder and gratitude at the resilience of mother nature and with great sorrow still for what is irrevocably lost. For most of us fire survivors, this is the biggest calamity that has ever befallen us. How to respond? How to carry on?

Those of you who are receiving this newsletter have opened your hearts, and for many, your pocketbooks, through us to the residents affected by the 2008 Butte Lightning Complex fire. Our experience with fundraising has shown us time and again that resources come to us for what we DO for our community with the money, rather than because of our promotional materials or fund‐raisers.

In this newsletter, you will find articles by several of the founding members of the Concow Phoenix Project informing you about our activities during this past year. We hope tox give you a picture of our community 12 months on.

We want you to know what your generous donations have done. And we want you to continue to remember us and to make our community a part of your charitable giving program.

If you can arrange to make a donation to the Concow Phoenix Project during the month of September, through North Valley Community Foundation, a portion of your donation will receive matching funds through the annual “Annie B’s” drive.

Recovery takes a long time. Stay with us.

Early in my time there, I was told that “Concow” means “place where things grow well” in the language of the native people, the Concow band of Mountain Maidu. And indeed, in the wake of the fire, the profusion of wildflowers and native grasses has brought uplift and pleasure to all, I am sure. To see green and softness where last year was only black and harshness has carried me through. Watch for this year’s calendar, which will feature photos of nature’s munificence. After all, we do live in a “fire‐adapted” landscape; fire is a part of our natural world. Of course, as 22nd century humans, with our obligations and comforts and needs, fire is a great disruptor.

I just picked up the most recent edition of our local weekly paper, the Chico News and Review. The lead article covers the year‐anniversary of Concow burning. Although the writer, Jason Cassidy, had a hard act to follow (Concow Phoenix’s own Tina Meyer wrote an excellent story last August), he did a great job. If you are connected to the internet, you should be able to read this article (“Slow Burn”) at

Concow Rising!
Sarah Salisbury
Founding Member
Concow Phoenix Project

Concow Phoenix Project is working to bring relief to the fire-affected community through community-building, financial assistance, restoration guidance & collaborative building efforts.

CPP Undertakes a Community Needs Assessment
We are pleased to announce that the Concow Phoenix Project has received financial resources from VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters) and CRWC (Christian Reformed World Relief Committee) to conduct a Community‐driven Needs Assessment. It is an effort to locate all those who still have unmet needs as a result of the 2008 Butte Lightning Complex Fire.

We believe this will help us better serve our community. The assessment is the first step in working with fire survivors and cooperating agencies to establish a Long Term Recovery Plan. This Plan aims to identify short‐term and long‐term need of the community and to organize resources so that all possible services can be known and made available to the community. It will aid in establishing the resources we need to continue the enormous work of rebuilding homes, restoring our lands, our lives and our community.

If you need help, call us. If you can help, call us.
Contact Sarah:

The Focused Mini-Grant Program
CPP Donations Are Realized as Cash Equivalents to the Community
Garnering funds for the Mini‐Grant Program has been of the highest priority for Concow Phoenix since our inception. Recently, we’ve focused giving to support community members’ efforts towards critical seasonal objectives of a sustainable, firewise community.

This spring, granting was focused on preparing for yet another fire season. The application for the program is a simple questionnaire about the challenges and goals the community member faces with respect to securing their structures, establishing irrigation/water systems, and clearing fire hazards from their home. With the funds available for this round of bi‐annual granting, we were able to provide gift cards to local hardware store for about 50% of those who applied.

In the fall, granting will focus on ecosystem restoration and erosion control efforts. Along with gift cards for hardware and landscaping, grantees may select from other resources including native grass seed, native grass straw bales for erosion control, native seed and labor assistance to install erosion controls. Our goal for the fall is to provide some services 100% of those in need.
~R. Funes

The Collaborative Building Initiative’s 1st Project
A Success! Our most popular program so far, and the one we still get requests for, is Shed Building. We worked in partnership with a terrific team from the Construction Management Department of CSU Chico to build 13 lockable, weather‐tight storage sheds for fire survivors during the CSU Chico winter break. At the peak of the 3 day “blitz build”, we had 60+ students and faculty volunteers camped at the Lake Concow Campground.

Through Concow Phoenix Project partnerships with CSUC, Rotary Club, local contractors and community members, we were able to bring an extremely important building project to fruition in our community. This project underscores Concow Phoenix’s commitment to collaboration and realizing shared goals with other community service organizations. We look forward to more fruitful partnerships!


Responding to Changing Times
As fires raged in our community, I felt a sinking sensation that the face of our community was about to change. A fire charred landscape and burned homes I began to accept as a given. I had heard chilling story after story of fire on the heels of an early a.m. evacuation. I had seen my own family home as a pile of so much debris on TV. But I could think nothing except how the world had changed in the 25 years since my family made Concow our home.

When we moved to Concow, the land was cheap and the owner would carry with no money down. Wells weren’t nearly as expensive to drill, and you could power your home with a generator. I knew most of our neighbors built their own homes as young men and women, with their own labor over many years. I knew many were uninsured or under‐insured, and un-permitted.

Times certainly have changed. Code Enforcement was aware that many homes had been built before permits were required, or despite them. Add diligent inspectors on top of the increased costs for building materials, subcontractors and fees, and you have a recipe for displacement.

Community Leadership & Sustainability

Concow is lucky to boast the work of many, many people who have dedicated themselves to our community’s recovery, and in particular, the work of Ms. Mandy Pyle. Mandy has worked to fill an important role; providing leadership in organizing the community to work on critical issues with Butte County. Mandy, with Concow Phoenix representatives and other members of the Concow Citizens Committee, has led the campaign to preserve our rights to a sustainable, rural lifestyle through advocacy and education with the Board of Supervisors to adopt the Limited Density Owner Built Rural Housing and corresponding Composting Toilet/Greywater System Ordinances.

Another community member, and a founding member of the CPP, was awarded the CSU Chico Rawlins Environmental Fellowship to determine the feasibility of Strawbale Construction for Affordable Housing in the Concow community. The Fellowship has provided resources to facilitate a network of interested parties to design, engineer and build a small, demonstration strawbale home in Concow for 2010. It has provided resources to educate the community on the value of strawbale construction. Thanks to Architect Bob Theis and local engineer Paul Krohn for their interest and commitment to our community!

Limited Density Owner Built Rural Housing Ordinance

This ordinance, also known as “Title 25”, was sought by community leaders for the purpose of creating a less stringent and less costly building code for rebuilding homes in Concow. After many talks with the Butte County Building and Environmental Health Departments and with the support of Bill Connelly, District 1 Supervisor, in May 2009, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an acceptable version of Title 25. While the ordinance did not realize cost savings with Building Permit fees and impact fees for previously un-permitted homes, Title 25 provides certain owner/builder benefits i.e.; a 2 year building permit, fewer restrictions on room dimensions, pier foundations,the use of owner milled lumber and more, including strawbale and earthen plaster construction.

Straw Bale Construction

"Could it be that the house of the future was invented a century ago?” While the pioneers of Nebraska began building strawbale houses in the treeless prairies in 1890, straw bale construction is on the rise in California as we realize its many advantages for people and the planet. Straw bale construction is an exciting building alternative. It offers excellent insulation. Scores of “super-insulated” strawbale homes are being built in California’s Central Valley without cooling systems.

Recent tests prove plastered strawbale to be have impressive fire resistance and structural strength. And as recently as March 2009, the University of Nevada test facility subjected a small strawbale home to 200% more shaking than recorded at the 1994 Northridge, California Earthquake. After a series of seven increasingly forceful tests, the plaster cracked and the house shook off it’s foundation but, it remained standing.

Facilitating the build of a demonstration strawbale home is just one of the priorities of the Concow Phoenix Project’s Housing Initiative. Strawbale construction, still a new concept for many, can provide an attainable option for affordable, firewise housing while fulfilling a commitment to responsible environmental stewardship.
~R. Funes

Get Your Concow Rising T-Shirt for Just $15!
All-Cotton T-Shirts.
Available Styles...
Tanks in black and blue;
T’s in dark brown and turquoise,
T’s in dark green and natural
All have logo and text in tan.
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To order:

As with all our projects, all profits go to our various programs to assist fire
recovery in Concow: focused mini-grants, ecosystem restoration, our housing
and building initiatives, and other educational programs.

Leverage Your Charitable Gift to CPP!
Every dollar raised for the Concow Phoenix Project thru September 30 will be increased by a percentage during the Annie B’s Community Drive.
Plan your gift for CPP during the months of August and September!

How to Donate?
Online at: Click the Annie B’s link
Send Checks to: Annie B’s– CPP FUND
c/o NVCF
3120 Cohasset Rd. Suite 8
Chico, CA 95973

Or: Concow Phoenix Project
4096 Big Bend Road
Yankee Hill California 95965

Concow Phoenix Project is a grassroots organization dedicated to the recovery of the land and community of the Concow basin after the Butte Lightning Complex Fires of 2008.
Show Your Support for a local Community In Restoration!

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