Crest, USA — The embers were still glowing after the Cedar fire swept through Crest in 2003 when Deena Raver began helping her neighbors who’d lost their homes.
More than four years later, Raver is still working with fire victims. Relying on all she learned in the aftermath of the Cedar fire, Raver is now helping people rebuilding after the blazes that devastated San Diego County in October.
I couldn’t imagine not sharing the knowledge that I had, Raver said.
For her work with fire victims, Raver, 43, was recently honored in Sacramento by state Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula, as Woman of the Year.
County supervisor Dianne Jacob, who met Raver soon after the October 2003 wildfires, praised her.
She is one extraordinary person, Jacob said. She’s a very creative thinker in trying to come up with a solution.
The Cedar fire hit Crest particularly hard. Of the 2,600 homes destroyed countywide, more than 300 were in the East County hilltop community.
Within a day, Raver and a few others, including Crest residents Linda Chase and Dawn Hubert, were leading the recovery efforts. They hadn’t lost their homes, but they offered advice and moral support to neighbors who had.
Like Raver, Hubert and Chase are still helping. Hubert is again a Salvation Army caseworker for fire victims. Chase, who headed Crest’s fire recovery center in 2003, was hired by the San Diego Foundation to work with leaders in other communities hit by the 2007 fires, which destroyed 1,700 houses countywide.
After the Cedar fire, Raver, a construction consultant, untangled the county bureaucracy for residents trying to get building or grading permits. She advised them on dealing with contractors and worked with the volunteers who came to San Diego County to rebuild victims’ homes.
After several months of helping fire victims on a volunteer basis, the San Diego Foundation hired Raver to continue the job. She had just returned to her consulting business when October’s wildfires hit.
Within days, county officials asked Raver to help those fire victims rebuild. She is now the fire rebuild liaison in the county Department of Planning and Land Use. It’s a temporary job, but Raver said she plans to stay until her work is done.