The Butte Fire of 2015 devastated much of Calaveras County. The damage from the flames reached far beyond the properties, homes and lives lost, and the effects of the fire are still acutely felt across the community today.
While the blaze was stopped just before reaching the business section of Mountain Ranch, the recovery effort left the community baseball field in ruins.
“(The Federal Emergency Management Agency) took over our baseball field as a staging area, and they had showers, and water trucks, and laundromats … They tore it up,” Phil Alberts said.
Alberts played a leading role in originally establishing the baseball field in the late 1960s, and also managed the community softball team for over 25 years. Funds were raised through local donations, without any government assistance. Over the years, the field has been maintained through community contributions, Alberts said.
Following the fire, Alberts said that he approached FEMA for funds to repair the field. He was told it was a county issue, and the county, in turn, said that it was too strapped for funds to contribute.
So Alberts set out to raise money on his own. Community members pitched in, and he was able to raise enough to pay for the $45,000 repair, which was completed last year.
One of the largest donations that Alberts received was a check for $10,000 from the San Andreas Community Covenant Church. The check was delivered by Steve Airola, the chairman of the leadership team at the church.
“A lot of our congregation wanted to make a donation to Butte Fire victims,” Airola said. “We felt that giving this money to repair the park would benefit a lot of people in the community and bring a sense of morale back to Mountain Ranch.”
Recently, enough funds were raised by the Mountain Ranch community to return the favor and make its own donation to the church.
Alberts recently handed a $10,000 check to Steve Airola to be given to the church, allowing the funds to be used for other community members in need.
“We gave the $10,000 back to the church so that they can use it for some other community or individual that is facing a disaster,” Alberts said. “I think it’s a big accomplishment for a town the size of Mountain Ranch.”
Airola said that the church never intended to be compensated for its donation, but was happy to receive the gift from the Mountain Ranch community.
“What goes around, comes around,” Airola said.