The Camp Fire: A Shannon Collins Storyadmin
The Camp Fire: A Shannon Collins Story
By: Troy Hennig / Silver Dollar Speedway & Marysville Raceway
On November 8, 2018, the lives of over 30,000 people were forever changed. What came to be known as The Camp Fire, withered the towns of Paradise, Magalia and others. In its wake, the Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. The Silver Dollar Fairgrounds hosted many of the displaced families. Emergency providers like Red Cross, FEMA and the Butte County Sheriff’s worked all winter to help meet the needs of so many who had lost everything in the fire. Since then, the racing family has also banded together. The World of Outlaws donated one dollar from every ticket sold in California to the California Fire Relief Charity. Kendra Jacobs, Marketing Director for Knoxville Raceway, contacted Silver Dollar Speedway and Marysville Promoter Dennis Gage and offered some financial assistance to our racing families affected by the Camp Fire.
Below, is the story of one such racing family. I had reached out to Shannon Collins and asked him to write a story based on their experience during and post The Camp Fire. What he shared is full of emotion and heart. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him.
Shannon Collins is a champion. In 2018, he won the Marysville Raceway Hobby Stock title. Along with his wife, Nikki, and their three kids, the Collins have been displaced since the Camp Fire tore through Magalia. Fellow racer Kyle Allen was able to host the family and keep them local. Yet, even with the support from the racing family, the Collins made a tough decision and decided to move out of State to Roseburg, OR and rebuild their lives. The Collins will continue to try and compete as much as they can the remainder of the season at Silver Dollar Speedway and Marysville Raceway. Good luck to the Collins family.
November 8th, 2018
The day started out like most, woke up around 7 am to a message on my phone, however it was Karl Pavlik Jr. asking me if the fire was close to me. Fire? What fire? I hopped on Facebook and sure enough, there was a fire on the other side of the canyon in the tiny “town” of Pulga. Some posts were coming in about evacuations over there, but the severity was totally unknown. My wife Nikki took our oldest child, Summer, to school at Paradise Intermediate like normal and came back to pass along word of the fire. Still unconcerned, she left again with her friend Linda to go to old Magalia to see the smoke and take some pictures. Around this time, I started seeing evacuation warnings for Pentz Rd. I messaged Ken Lloyd, who lived off lower Pentz Rd to see if he was leaving. Yep, he said, grabbing a few things and heading to Chico. My wife returned a little bit more concerned and said she was going with Linda to pick up Summer and Linda’s daughter Brooke from PINT. Little did they know they were being evacuated on busses around that time. I got a final call from my wife around 9:30 before losing cell phone service telling me the fire had reached the area of Skyway near old Magalia and to grab the pets and get out. This whole time I had seen no smoke from our street, the tree canopy was so thick you can only see the sky by looking straight up. I went outside and saw some of my neighbors loading stuff up, so I decided to get in gear. With no ability to access information from the outside world to see how severe the situation was I merely rounded up pets and a few important documents and took off towards Stirling City and Butte Meadows. The previous day I was working on our 1995 GMC Suburban and it was parked in front of the garage, disabled, blocking my race car inside. I could’ve dragged it out of the way, hooked up my trailer and loaded it, but it was part denial, part laziness because I still didn’t know how bad it truly was that just inspired me to head out with so little. I even spend a couple minutes staring at my 20+ racing trophies up on the shelf above our washer and dryer trying to decide if I should grab a ladder and get them down before deciding against it. I even left my Bi-Pap machine that was prescribed for sleep apnea. “We’ll be back in a day or two” I kept telling myself. Little did I know my wife and her friend were fleeing flames on foot, forced to abandon Linda’s SUV in front of the Goldseekers thrift store near Skyway and Rocky lane due to total gridlock.
You may remember seeing the same photo on the news of an abandoned school bus burnt down in the ditch, that bus was only a few cars back in the gridlock. They fled on foot all the way down to Holiday Market in Paradise before catching a ride out of town from some strangers, ending up at the Oroville Home Depot that evening. Meanwhile, once I left, I took sideroads from our street, Drexel Drive, all the way up to Wycliff and Skyway, where I stopped at Sakura Sushi for about 45 minutes since traffic wasn’t moving at all at that time. It was there that I made an acquaintance with a guy named S.P. Farris. I only recognized him because I grew up with his girlfriend, Danielle Gray, and had seen pictures of him on her Facebook. Once I introduced myself, we talked for a while until we saw traffic start to move again and headed out. Over the next couple hours, we reconnected again at the entrance to Merlo Park in Stirling City and at the Bambi Inn in Butte Meadows when we’d both stop to let our dogs out for potty breaks. At that point we went our separate ways as he departed towards Chico while I waited for a couple hours to see if mine or my wife’s family evacuated the same way I did. It was there I came across Chris Barnett, his family and several other family friends of mine all waiting as well. Around 3-4 pm, I decided to head down to Chico as well to hopefully get cell phone service and find out what the hell was going on. It was on that drive down through Forest Ranch on Highway 32 headed to Chico that I looked to my left and saw smoke for the very first time. Tons of it. Once I picked up cell service, I was able to comment on Facebook posts wondering where I was that I was ok and headed to safety. Linda’s husband Vernon was able to drive over to the Home Depot and pick up Nikki and Linda and bring them back to the Oxford Suites in Chico where I reunited with my family around 6 pm at night. Turns out all 3 of our kids were evacuated on busses safely to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds where they were picked up by family and brought to the hotel for the night. The next day we were taken in by Scott Longmire and stayed with him for the next two weeks until Magalia was reopened (going around the back ways through Forest Ranch), when we went to stay with family for the next month and a half. Since mid-January, we have been staying with Kyle Allen at his compound in Cherokee in a 24-foot travel trailer. 5 humans, 3 cats, 1 dog. A great deal of people in the racing community and our families came together to donate clothing and other household items since we’re rebuilding our lives from scratch. We were renters with no rental insurance, so FEMA helped a little, those funds went straight to securing housing in southern Roseburg, Oregon. We are buying a 4-bedroom mobile home that had to be moved 3 hours from some property in northern Oregon to a mobile home park to be setup and renovated. This process has taken some time and the expected move in dates have been postponed multiple times but we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and are looking at a move in date sometime in June. In the meantime, I was able to reacquire one of my old racecars, one I ran in part of 2016 and all of 2017 and continue racing to keep some sort of normalcy in our family’s lives. It’s on an underfunded budget and any major expense could end it at any time but we’re doing ok for now. I’m anticipating being able to keep the car down here and travel down for late season races depending on what type of work I find once we get settled and what my schedule is. With our situation, housing was going to be hard to find so we kind of had to go where the housing was, which is not in this area. We found Roseburg to be like Paradise, but with more going on for families and youth. And the cost of living is cheaper on most fronts. Also, I think it will be important for our family’s recovery to get away from the devastation and start over fresh. Our boys are still going to school in Magalia (where my wife works part time as an aide/yard duty) so it’s a 30-minute drive each way each day back and forth through the burn zone. They just finally cleaned up our rental that we lived at for the past 5 years the other day so that’s another chapter closed. We have some family up in Oregon and have made connections with some other people who have moved north as well. Our good friend and former landlord, Jesse Skidmore (former track champ) and his family moved to Grants Pass, Oregon after losing homes to the fire. We will be a 5-hour drive on I-5 from Butte County, so we plan on visiting and racing down here the rest of this season at least. As for 2020 it’s up in the air, may get my feet wet at the tracks in Oregon. Cottage Grove will be our nearest dirt track, but Southern Oregon, Coos Bay and Willamette are all less than 2 hours away as well. Now that we’re 6 months removed from this tragedy, I feel distanced enough to write about it and very ready to restart our lives. Other than racing we’ve been on pause for the past 6 months. We’re very hopeful for the future and feel we’ll come out this in better shape than we were before (I was laid off from work about a month before the fire) and get out of this rut to thrive and prosper. Thank you for reading this.