Butte and Valley fires and civil legal aid (Northern California, 2015)

The following is from Legal Services of Northern California:

Two weeks in September 2015 saw some of the costliest devastation recorded in California’s history. The Butte and Valley Fires, which scorched more than 138,000 acres across Northern California, left thousands homeless and caused nearly $2 billion in combined damages.

When the flames died down, displaced Californians sought to reclaim their lives, only to find the process stymied by unexpected legal troubles. Discovering their homes, livelihoods, and well-being hinged on the advice of knowledgeable counsel, desperate residents sought legal help.

Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC) responded by initiating a coordinated effort to support low-income victims of fire. In the case of the Butte and Valley Fires, LSNC’s Mother Lode and Ukiah Regional Offices teamed up with the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, and Northern California Lawyer Access, a lawyer referral service, to provide legal assistance to fire-affected low-income individuals, families, and seniors.

Although a frequently unsung component of disaster relief, civil legal aid providers are critical for assisting individuals displaced by disasters with matters as diverse as rehoming, pursuing insurance claims, and recreating lost legal documents. With eight field offices serving twenty-three mostly rural counties in Northern California, LSNC acts as a backstop for the poor when wildfires and other disasters strike in its service area.