Over the last several days, hundreds of letters have poured in for the unidentified couple thanks to the efforts of a local woman who heard about their story ― that a flat tire brought the trailer’s metal rim in contact with asphalt, sending sparks into surrounding brush ― and the extreme pain they are feeling from it.
“As of now, I have 650 cards and messages in less than 48 hours. I didn’t think this would become a love avalanche,” Redding resident Rachel Pilli, who organized the outreach, told HuffPost in an email on Wednesday.
This so-called “avalanche” began on Monday, shortly after Pilli posted on the Facebook page Carr Fire Stories, suggesting that residents reach out to the grief-stricken couple with words of encouragement.
“We learned that his wife is blaming herself for the #CarrFire, because she asked him to take the trailer in the first place,” Pilli wrote. “She has been crying day and night on her couch. Do you think we can show some grace and extend kindness (and even forgiveness) for the shame and despair that she is experiencing.”
Pilli told the Redding Record Searchlight that she was moved to help the couple after meeting a firefighter at church on Sunday who identified them as his mother’s neighbor.
After posting about the couple’s grief, hundreds of comments have flooded the Facebook page, urging the couple to not blame themselves.
“It’s not anything that they did intentionally, it’s not anything that they need to be blamed for, accidents happen all the time,” Pilli told the Record Searchlight.
The letters will be collected at the Care Net Pregnancy Center in Redding, where Pilli is executive director. Once all of the letters have been collected, she and another woman will help deliver them on Wednesday. A local florist is also gifting a bouquet, she said.
“The response from our community towards this couple has been like an ocean of love and grace,” Pilli told HuffPost. “People have been incredibly generous, gracious, compassionate, kind and truly sacrificial in unimaginable ways.”
As for the couple, Pilli said that as far as she’s aware, they don’t know about the letters yet, unless they’ve heard about it through the media.
As of Wednesday, the Carr fire, one of more than a dozen raging across California, has grown to 211,038 acres and is 67 percent contained.
The blaze has killed three first responders, destroyed 1,077 residential structures and damaged 191 others, according to Cal Fire. Five civilians also have died in the fire, including a worker for Pacific Gas & Electric.
The Mendocino Complex fire, which is made up of the Ranch fire and River fire, remains the largest fire in state history. As of Wednesday morning, it covered more than 363,800 acres and was 64 percent contained. Its cause remains under investigation.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated that three people had been killed in the Carr fire. The death toll includes three first responders and five civilians.