Locals help house 350 people displaced by fire

Crammed into a small car with a pair of dogs, a family of five stirs and stretches, piling legs over one another and putting heads on shoulders in an effort to find a comfortable place to get some sleep.

They’ve driven to Truckee after being displaced by the Caldor Fire. As thoughts of home race through their minds, a small bit of solace comes in the form of a helping hand — an offer of a place to stay until evacuation orders are lifted.

The day after the evacuation order in the South Tahoe area, Jenelle Potvin reached out to friends from across the lake, offering up a room at her home. She soon saw fellow Truckee and North Tahoe residents making similar offers across social media channels and decided to compile all the information on locals looking to help out in a central location.

“I noticed on social media people were randomly, here and there, offering up places to stay,” she said. “I just started putting the word out there saying, here’s a form you can fill out if you want to offer up your place and then I created a form for evacuees.”

Potvin said initially she thought her and a team of a few others could help around 10 or 20 people, but “then it pretty quickly become more than I could handle myself.”

She took the week off work, and then gathered additional people to build the team of volunteers to around 10 individuals in order to help with screening applicants and getting the word out. After launching the program on Monday, Aug. 30, Potvin said the team has helped place more than 100 families comprised of more than 350 people and 150 pets.

“We also had people reach out and say, ‘I don’t have a home to offer, but can I help pay for someone’s hotel room or can I help pay for the their food,’” she said.

Since evacuation orders have switched to warnings in some areas, Potvin said things have slowed down to a more manageable pace, but inquiries from those seeking help continue to come in.

“We’re still placing people,” she said. “I have someone today who is moving into a vacation home in Olympic Valley. They haven’t been released to go home yet.”

For those looking for or to offer help, Potvin can be contacted at 530-448-0144.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643

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