Imagine being at work while your home and whole town burns down. This happened on November 8th, 2018 to Brother Joshua (Josh) J. Peete, Beta Tau (California State University – Sacramento) 2003, a resident of Paradise, California.
Brother Peete, the superintendent for the Golden Feather Union Elementary School District, rural school principal and father to an 11-year old daughter never had the opportunity to return for personal or valuable items. He had to make sure students and staff got home safely that morning while residents were loading up everything possible and evacuating. As Peete saw flames heading toward the school, it was time to leave. All of the students were reunited with family and Josh, along with a handful of remaining staff members, were last to leave.
At one point, the Camp Fire spread the size of a football field every 3 seconds. It was the most destructive fire in California history. Add the seven worst California fires together and that still does not add up to the amount of structures burned in the Camp Fire.
“Law enforcement wouldn’t let me back into Paradise. But I’ve had time to think about what I would have grabbed if I had just a couple of minutes. That list includes non-digital pictures, my daughter’s stuffed animals and her childhood keepsakes, musical instruments, my silver coin collection and clothes,” Peete said.
Peete is thankful that everyone he knew in Paradise made it out safely including his daughter.
“It got real the next day when I only had my truck and one change of clothes. I was planning to stay at my girlfriend’s house that evening so I packed a change of clothes in the morning. I’m really glad I didn’t carpool because I wouldn’t have my truck,” Peete said.
Many alumni from the Beta Tau Colony at California State University – Sacramento, a group of about 20 brothers, contacted Peete over the course of the next few weeks to help in any way they could.
Brothers wanted to contribute to help people in the Camp Fire and decided to give Brother Peete a boost during this time of unimaginable need.
“I wrote an email of my account of the Camp Fire to Derek Minnema, one of the founding fathers of the Colony. He shared it to our alumni Sacramento ZBT email group. This made everyone aware and spurred interest in reaching out,” Peete said. “It was great hearing from the guys. I received calls from brothers I hadn’t spoken to in years. It was like a day never passed and it was a great opportunity to catch up.”
“The guys knew I planned to live in a travel trailer with no housing options in the area and some contributed toward that while others helped with a meal, a text or a phone call.”
During most of November, Peete was busy reopening an unused school site for his displaced and homeless students to occupy on December 3rd.
“I would like to thank the Sacramento ZBT alumni who had my back. We always said, ‘for life.’ 15 years later, it’s great to see our ‘bonds never sever.’”
If you would like to reach out and contact Josh Peete, he is available via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @JoshPeete, or Facebook.