The U.S. holiday season has begun, but it's far from a festive time in the areas of California that have just been devastated by wildfires. In the north, the Camp Fire burned across the city of Paradise to become the most destructive fire on record in the state. Many of California's Camp Fire victims will be eating Thanksgiving dinner this year, though, after residents of the surrounding communities banded together in the face of the tragedy.
"It hits close to home because Paradise is not that far away and our community is family. It hits all of us," Kris Wyatt, one dinner organizer, told CNN. "We just want to bring a little bit of family to them on Thanksgiving Day."
CNN highlighted two massive feasts being organized in the Camp Fire area. Wyatt's will take place in the city of Lincoln, which is about an hour and a half from Paradise by car. Another will occur in the city of Chico, about 20 minutes away; it's called "Thanksgiving Together" and is expected to serve 15,000 people, according to Eater SF.
The World Central Kitchen and the Sierra Nevada brewery are among the organizations helping to host Chico's event, which they've declared is meant to "bring together and bless the community through the unifying and healing power of food." CNN reports that the brewery alone is ready to host 2,000 people on Thanksgiving day, so it's already prepped with well over a thousand pounds each of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pulled pork.
Preparing that much food at once has forced the brewery to come up with some innovative cooking techniques. "Our owner realized that if we cooked the potatoes in our brew kettle (where we make beer), we could do about 1,000 pounds of mashed potatoes at a time," a brewery spokesperson told CNN. "So we are indeed cooking mashed potatoes in the brew kettle."
The feast in Lincoln will be much smaller, but still massive by normal standards. KTXL reports that organizers plan to host around 300 people and are cooking about 150 turkeys.
One of the organizers, Jeanette Bermudez, told HuffPost that she hopes the meal will provide some comfort to victims. "I know we can't completely heal them at the moment, but if I can help them get [their] minds off of things, it will absolutely all be worth it," she said. "My hope is that they can connect with other members of the community to establish friendships and support along [their] journey of healing and recovery."
According to KABC-TV, Camp Fire is the most destructive wildfire in California history and has already wrecked nearly 17,000 buildings, burned 150,000 acres, and killed at least 81 individuals. TIME reports that nearly 700 people were still missing as of Tuesday. By that morning, the Butte County Fire Department had announced that the wildfire was 70 percent contained.