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California Fire Survivors
and First Responders

How  Heartstrings  Counseling  is  Helping  Fire  Survivors

 Our goal is to provide free counseling services to all California fire survivors, many of whom are families and children who have undergone severe trauma and loss. Since the Camp Fire in 2018, Heartstrings Counseling has provided thousands of counseling sessions and hundreds of fire survivors. However, we need additional funding to ensure that no one is turned away.  With the recent devastation of the  Dixie and River Fires, Heartstrings Counseling requests donations and sponsorships so we can provide  free counseling sessions to these fire survivors who have lost everything.

We have personally met with many families who were in need of mental health services, yet they couldn't afford it. Most of the families we have met with had severe trauma from escaping the fire with flames on both sides of them, watching people perish as they were evacuating and racing for their lives out of the fire. The Camp Fire led to significant emotional distress for the survivors, who were also dealing with the additional challenges of evacuating, relocating and then rebuilding their homes and their lives. Their home was their place of safety, comfort and security, and now their normality of life has been significantly disrupted. It is very common for these victims to experience a range of emotions and several stages of adjustment, including shock, anger, depression, PTSD and hopelessness. Through the use of EMDR (eye movement desensitization), brain spotting and trauma focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the emotional support plan has included restoration of safety and empowerment, improving the quality of life on a daily basis by providing them with a place to process through their trauma and grief. Would you please consider donating today?

The Camp Fire was one of the most destructive fires in California history and the nation’s deadliest in the century. The fire wiped out 153,336 acres where 19,000 structures were burned to the ground, including 13,696 residences. Unfortunately, 86 people lost their lives in the fire. Many of those who had to evacuate fled to Placer, Sacramento, Nevada and El Dorado and surrounding counties and had to stay with family and friends, in tents and trailers, and in local hotels. The survivors of the Camp Fire have had a long road ahead of them to rebuild their lives and process the loss and trauma they have suffered, and Heartstrings Counseling has been a key partner on their journey. 

To learn more about what we are doing for mental health support to fire survivors you can watch Darla Gale's interview with FOX 40 News Here.

Heartstrings Healing Express Crisis/Disaster Mobile Counseling Program

Heartstrings Healing Express

In 2021 we launched our Heartstrings Healing Express Mobile Crisis and Disaster Counseling Program. Our 38 foot, newly renovated RV has been designed to bring Heartstrings Counseling along with our therapists to the site of crisis or disaster events that happen in our community, as well as surrounding areas. This will allow us to pick up, get moving and offer mental health counseling and support to those affected by the recent wildfires. If you would like to donate to our mobile crisis and disaster counseling program please click here

Mental Health Tips for Fire Survivors

With all the fires in the Northstate, it can be a difficult and emotional time for some people—especially for survivors.

Darla Gale, the founder of the non-profit Heartstrings Counseling, has helped a number of Camp Fire survivors.

"They are like family to us. We have literally done thousands of sessions with them," said Gale.

During a time like this, Gale says it is important fire survivors remember that experiencing anxiety is completely normal.

"One of the most frustrating things for myself as a therapist to hear, and to hear from my Camp Fire survivors as well, is for people to say, 'just get over it.' Your brain doesn't allow for you to do that. You have to process through that trauma," explained Gale.

If you begin feeling anxious, Gale says one of the best things a survivor can do is focus on their breathing. "We have a built-in relaxation machine in our body, and that's our breath."

Gale says our brains can only focus on one thing at one time, so when we are focusing on breathing we can not focus on the stressor. "It's just a matter of doing it is a hard thing," Gale said.

For new survivors, Gale says they are currently in shock and cannot process in its entirety what is happening but recommends, when it is time, they talk through their trauma.

"My encouragement is for people to be able to eventually talk about it and not stuff it. The more you can talk about your experience, you processing out little pieces of trauma and that's helping you survive and get healthy and move through this," explained Gale.

For now, Gale says new survivors should get with a community and make connections.

"You have to start with connections," said Gale. "They've lost their community and so you start with connection. That's how the Camp Fire survivors can help also their own healing process is by reaching out to the Dixie Fire survivors because they know what they've been through."

Victim. Survivor. Thriver. Those are the three words Gale uses when referring to those that have experienced trauma. Victims of situations become survivors who then become 'thrivers'.

Heartstrings Counseling still has grants available for Camp Fire survivors if they would like to talk with someone and Gale is currently in the process of looking for and writing grants for Dixie Fire survivors.

Gale is also working on a book for fire survivors to help them cope with the trauma. It will be available in 2022 and all the proceeds will go towards their fire survivor counseling fund.

 For additional clips on mental health tips for fire survivors click the links below...

Darla Gale CEO/Founder of Heartstrings Counseling On ANXIETY for Fire Survivors

Darla Gale CEO/Founder of Heartstrings Counseling On FLASHBACKS for Fire Survivors

Darla Gale CEO/Founder of Heartstrings Counseling On MINDFULNESS for Fire Survivors


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