County residents impacted by the destructive Valley Fire will be able to receive help and information from multiple agencies all in one spot beginning this weekend.
The Local Assistance Center opened Saturday morning to offer locals a one-stop-shop where connections to crisis counseling, food stamp cards and first aid and health screenings for older adults and people with disabilities will be offered. In addition to the services, information on residents’ homes, temporary occupancy, guidance about rebuilding, housing assistance and permits will also be available.
Other agencies including the American Red Cross, Department of Motor Vehicles, California Department of Insurance and more will also be on site to offer additional guidance.
Public health orders will be followed at the Local Assistance Center to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Face masks will be required at the site and physical distancing will also be mandatory.
Lawson Valley residents Taneja and Caleb Suggs were among the locals who arrived at the new center on Saturday.
"It's our first natural disaster so we didn’t know what would happen," Taneja Suggs told NBC 7.
The couple lost power at their home and as a result, lost a lot of the food they had. They had been staying in a hotel thanks to the help of the American Red Cross and the San Diego Humane Society helped with their pets.
"Red Cross has been awesome through the whole process, helping out with hotels and food," Caleb Suggs said.
Caleb told NBC 7 that returning to areas that had been scorched by the blaze is jarring.
"It’s like a whole different planet," he described. "It's like you're in a nice area and then you step into hell. It’s horrible."
During the peak of evacuations, 1,420 residents in San Diego's East County were forced out of their homes as the ferocious Valley Fire exploded to 17,665 acres. As of Saturday morning, Cal Fire San Diego announced firefighters have had the blaze contained by 69%.
To further help residents who were affected by the fire, county established a recovery hot line this past week. Locals can receive information and guidance by calling (858) 715-2200 or by emailing ValleyFireRecovery@sdcounty.ca.gov during regular business hours.
Employees will answer phone calls to the hotline and respond to incoming emails from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
The Local Assistance Center is scheduled to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this weekend and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at the Rancho San Diego Library branch, located at 15555 Via Rancho San Diego Rd.