Imagine going on a Cub Scout camping trip without knowing how long you’ll be gone or whether you’ll have a home to return to when it’s over.
That scenario befell Pack 54 of the Western Los Angeles County Council last month. After a wildfire ignited nearby, the pack converted an already-planned campout into an evacuation.
“Our families packed for the campout and then had to turn around and tear their cherished belongings from their houses,” says Pack 54 Cubmaster Charles Nance. “I have never been camping before where you look at your tent as a long-term possibility.”
Some of the Pack 54 families found shelter with friends or family members who lived out of the danger zone. But six families from Pack 54 had no real place to go. They decided to proceed with the campout, taking everything they could fit into their vehicles to the BSA’s Camp Trask in Monrovia, Calif.
“The folks at Camp Trask were amazing,” Nance says. “They offered to let us stay as long as we needed to at the camp until we figured things out.”
Pack 54 was one of several Scouting units affected by the November wildfire in Southern California known as the Woolsey Fire. The fire killed three people and resulted in the destruction of 1,500 buildings. (To learn how the Northern California wildfire, known as the Camp Fire, affected our Scouting family, read this.)
Thankfully, none of the Pack 54 families lost their homes. But their story — and the stories of other packs and troops who did a Good Turn during the Southern California wildfire — is fascinating.
Pack 54 takes an extended campout
Nov. 9 to 11 was supposed to be a Pack 54 family camping weekend. But by Nov. 8, most of the families in the pack had received an evacuation order.
Those families that decided to go camping “made quite the scene,” Nance says.
“Our cars were packed to overflowing,” he says. “In addition to the Cub Scouts and their families, we had all the family pets: dogs, cats, rats and even a lizard.”
The adults stopped for all the food and equipment the families would need during their stay.
Camp Trask staff, in true Scouting fashion, turned their dining hall and other buildings into evacuation centers. They even let the Cub Scouts relieve stress by shooting bows and arrows, hiking and panning for gold.
“The camping adventure took our minds off the fact that we all were facing the very real possibility of losing everything we had not managed to cram into our cars,” Nance says. “Everyone supported each other, and we kept our spirits very high.”
(See also: Read more about the BSA’s age guidelines for camping.)
Pack 54 plans to give back
Their ordeal over, Pack 54 is now focused on thanking the heroes of the Woolsey Fire.
On Saturday, the pack will participate in “Operation Firefighters Appreciation Dinner.” Cub Scouts packs and Boy Scouts troops from the Las Colinas District, part of the Western Los Angeles County Council, will bring pizza to various fire stations to thank these men and women for their efforts.
Hundreds of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts will spread out to 15 different fire stations.
In addition to hot pizza, they’ll bring handmade thank-you notes and photos. What a great way to remind these firefighters that their efforts saved lives.
More stories of service after the Woolsey Fire …
Zoe shows Scout Spirit
“Helping other people at all times” doesn’t usually mean “when a wildfire is still raging.”
But don’t tell that to Zoe Moore, a Wolf Scout in Pack 127 of Agoura Hills, Calif.
On Nov. 11, Zoe showed true Scout Spirit when she visited an evacuation center — well outside the fire danger zone — to hand out breakfast burritos and make coffee. She helped bring a little comfort to these families who were forced to wait out the blaze.
At last month’s Pack 127 meeting, Cubmaster Steve Lloyd presented Zoe with the pack’s Scout Spirit Award. He pointed to Zoe as an excellent example of someone living the Scout Oath.
Troop 485 fills sandbags
Once the fires were extinguished, the risk shifted to mudslides. The worry was that rain washing over the burned area would wash mountains of mud into neighborhoods.
Troop 485 of the Western Los Angeles County Council stepped in, filling sandbags to distribute to local homeowners.
Their efforts even made the local news.
Troop 127 helps its neighbors
Members of Troop 127 should be commended, too. They volunteered at the Las Virgenes Unified School District donation center. It’s here that affected families could get food, clothing, gift cards and more to help them recover.
Troop 127 also helped out at the World Center Kitchen, which made 10,000 meals a day for first responders and evacuees during the first weeks of the fires.
These are just a few examples of a fact that’s been true about the BSA since for more than 100 years: When life takes a bad turn, Scouts step in with a Good Turn.
Share your story
Did your pack, troop or crew contribute after the Southern California wildfire? Share your story and photos below in the comments.