Community Works to Help Man Who Lost His Home in the Helena Fire and Then Had to Have Surgery

Homes and business were destroyed as the Helena Fire rolled through the Junction City area. [Photo used with permission from Matthew Henderson. Click here to see more of his work]

Homes and business were destroyed as the Helena Fire rolled through the Junction City area. [Photo used with permission from Matthew Henderson. Click here to see more of his work.]

We’ve all read the stories of one person or family who’ve been impacted by a disaster and somehow they are gifted a whole new home or car….This isn’t one of those stories. Instead, it is the story of a community of caring people each helping a little to ease the burden of one man, Richard Pruitt, burned out by the Helena Fire.

“His home was in the Bigfoot Campground in Junction City,” explained Barbara Pitcher whose relationship to Pruitt is at once complicated–he’s her mother’s ex-boyfriend–and simple–she loves him and had him give her away at her wedding and she considers him her kids’ grandfather.

Pitcher said Pruitt was at a grocery store when the fire broke out and was unable to return home. “He lost everything but his vehicle and whatever he had on,” she explained. “He ended up in Weaverville and we didn’t find him for about a week. He’s now staying at my mom’s in Hayfork.”

Yes, that is right, he’s staying with his ex-girlfriend and her new husband. Life and love don’t always color in the straight lines we try to lay out for them.

Meanwhile, Pitcher was trying to help and getting nowhere. Trying to help her “dad” after the fire was so chaotic and she didn’t know what to do, she explained. “Out of frustration I posted this rant:”

My kids’ grandpa lost his home in the Junction City “Helena” fire. He is homeless! I have to say it has been very frustrating. He got NOTHING from any fire disaster relief fund.

When he went to the shelter he got a change of clothes, a sleeping bag, and a grocery bag of cereal and some canned food. HE NEEDS A HOME!!!

He is older, he is diabetic,…and he’s on a very low income….. What are people supposed to do? We’ve called around trying to get help for him and we just get, “I don’t know, call…”

…Where did all the donations and relief funds go? This man needs help!

He lives a very simple life. He can’t afford much, so I’m asking you all to share and hopefully we can get him his own travel trailer and help him start over.

What she didn’t say was that Pruitt had to have surgery right after the fire. The doctors had to open him from hip to shin, she explained to us yesterday. “Next week he is having surgery to remove another blood clot out of the other leg…Medically it will be difficult for him to take care of himself. ”

In any case, Pitcher said, her rant “in no way was trying to get anything free or handed down.” She just needed to blow off some steam and hoped for some help finding a cheap trailer.

And, it worked.

Her Facebook friend, Lois Cordova, shared the rant. And (this reporter’s cousin) Sherry Pavlich knew of a realtor, Linda Walker, that was looking to sell a trailer located in a Trinidad trailer park. When Walker heard of Pruitt’s plight, she dropped her price to help him and his family afford to buy it and agreed to take low monthly payments. Pruitt has applied to live at the park and as soon as they accept him, he can move in.

Trailer in Trinidad

The little trailer that Pruitt is purchasing.

“We’re very thankful to Linda,” Pitcher said, “not many are willing to work with people and be flexible.”

Trailer in Trinidad

The place is fully furnished and even has dishes.

In addition, other people who read of Pruitt’s plight offered a suggestion that the Weaverville Lions Club might be able to assist and Pitcher said that the Lions Club has been very helpful.

“Now that everything is settling down I feel like we are able to figure things out a little bit better,” Pitcher said. “I think we will be able to pull this all off.”

She added, “Just having the community’s help is amazing…I’m very appreciative of everybody who helped us.”

A large gift is often beyond the ability of any one person or group to offer but, sometimes everyone working together can help ease someone’s burden and add some joy to their life. If you would like to be part of this group of folks helping out, Pitcher also said that Pruitt loves to paint. “[H]e’s very excited about having this space where he can start painting again,” she explained. “If anyone has painting supplies (paints, brushes, canvases, easel, etc) they don’t use or want, I’m sure he would love them.”

If you have some art supplies you would like to gift Richard Pruitt, Barbara’s address is PO Box 394, Eureka, Ca. 95502 and her email is

Earlier Chapters on the Helena Fire: 



  • Wow ! that is a great set-up. Have relatives that have one of the few houses left standing in Cooper Bar Estatea from the Helena Fire, altho they lost all their outbuildings also but somehow the chickens survived !
    Nice ” good story “, we sure need some.
    Best of luck to Richard , he has guardian angels.👍🏽

  • People are so amazing! Humankindness at its best.paying it forward🌞 much love to you Richard good luck!!

  • Thank you for this report. It’s very heartening to hear that my fellow Helena fire survirors are also finding their way forward day by day miracle by miracle.

    That said, please refrain from sharing photos of the Helena ruins. The ruins depicted in this story are not Mr. Pruitt’s, but those of another surviror not related to this story. Therefore it makes this choice of images quite gratuitous.

    Please know that the ruins are the most painful and personal part of the Helena Fire ordeal. If this were once your home, trust me, you would not want this picture plastered all over the interwebs.

    Thank you for your consideration going forward.

    • Kimberly, I’m sorry. But while I don’t want to cause the survivors pain, at the same time, photos of disasters around the world could possibly cause pain to any of the survivors of those incidents. If I followed your theory, there would be no photos of the aftermath of the Twin Towers, the Oklahoma bombings, Katrina, etc. That attempt to erase history might buy some of the survivors a little peace, though I’m not sure of that. But, it would remove knowledge and visual warnings of the results of disasters from our collective knowledge.

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