SONORA — Trisha Jacobs, whose name you may also see listed as Patricia Jacobs Chalk, lives and breathes fire. As in Mountain Fire & Emergency.
But there are two sides to Trisha’s story. The before and after, as it were.
As one of the names most associated with the Mountain Fire and Emergency Facebook Group, she’s made it her mission — along with her teammates — and she emphasizes they are a team — to keep the mountain communities aware and updated on fire activity in the areas of Oakhurst, Mariposa, Raymond, Coarsegold, and North Fork, as well as the High Sierra area. They branch out into covering traffic accidents and other incidents which impact the travel, life and well-being of mountain residents.
Trisha first became aware of fire issues in the area when she lived in Yosemite and was forced to evacuate multiple times due to the A-Rock Fire and subsequent events. Feeling the need for more adequate information, she joined the Mariposa Community Fire Information Facebook Group. About six years ago she joined Mountain Fire & Emergency, originally created by Hunter Smith. She subsequently became an administrator.
MF&E currently operates with three administrators plus three moderators and several part-time moderators who can be activated when necessary. This and similar groups have served as models for similar organizations across the country, providing real-time information from various sources, as well as advising of emergency shelters and aid for animals and humans in the path of disaster. Trisha herself is an admin or backup admin for groups in Washington state and New Jersey. MF&E doesn’t attempt to cover the entire southern Sierra Nevada area, instead limiting coverage to roughly the area of Raymond, Coarsegold, Mariposa, Ahwahnee, Oakhurst, North Fork, and the Scenic Byway, as well as the southern end of Yosemite National Park.
Over the years she has devoted a massive amount of time, often up to 80 hours a week, sometimes 16 hours a day, when fires rage or incidents demand, to monitoring scanners and communicating with fellow admins at MF&E. She and her MF&E workers (all volunteer) are like family, the best team she’s ever worked with.
Communications between MF&E team members take place all day, every day, and someone is always monitoring scanners and other information sources. The response is almost immediate to any emergency — but tempered to avoid speculation or gossip.
As the mountain communities have seen fire danger escalate over the years, MF&E has grown, and other sites with similar missions and possibly different rules, have sprung up. All add to the availability of information in times of emergency and fill different needs. MF&E is bare-bones, cut-to-the-chase, no chatter info taken directly from scanners or other official sources. In fact, their information is checked by those official sources and corrected as necessary to make sure no lines are crossed.
Trisha also operates her own page and Twitter account at Trisha’s WC Fire & WX for fires along the entire west coast. The MF&E group format has been shared and used across the country for many types of natural disasters. She also works directly with Facebook and admins a group of neighborhood Facebook group administrators who run groups around the world. She also participates as able in other local groups, such as Tuolumne-Calaveras Fire & Emergency and the newly-established Northside Fire and Emergency.
Any of us who have felt the effects of our recent fire and wind events can attest to the timeliness and usefulness of the information Trisha and her fellow admins and moderators dispense. Many who receive the Mariposa and Madera counties’ alerts turn immediately to MF&E to get locations and details the alerts fail to provide.
Trisha’s life revolved around part-time work, her studies leading to an Associate of Science in Restaurant Management from Columbia College and providing a home for her son, Ben, and herself. Her other son, Tim, lives in Fresno. She felt herself drawing closer and closer to one of the items on her bucket list: owning a catering truck and combining that with travel opportunities. At the time she coped with personal problems, including a back injury for which she received physical therapy. Still, she was optimistic about the future.
Then the shutdown happened.
But that wasn’t all.
In January 2021, she sought medical assistance for some symptoms she noticed. Come March, her doctor performed what was supposed to be a minor surgery, and she got a shock. “I think you have cancer,” he told her. But she couldn’t get a biopsy scheduled until May 2021, when the diagnosis was confirmed.
That’s when her world flew apart. She was completely blown out of the water. Her life changed instantly and dramatically.
Once the cancer was diagnosed, things moved rapidly. Her medical team prepared her for two chemotherapy infusions and thirty radiation treatments. In June, they installed a port through which the chemo could be delivered, which has proved both uncomfortable and often downright painful. Treatment began in earnest in July, and she suddenly found herself traveling more than she had in months for treatment. Although she’s just completed her last round of chemo, the medical team has suggested the port stay in place for a year, an unpleasant surprise.
She felt sick, exhausted, without energy and without the means to support herself and her family. Some days, she says, are better than others as she travels this journey.
Her treatments take place close to home, and she’s mostly been able to drive herself, however, she appreciates the presence of a second set of ears to make sure she doesn’t miss or misunderstand information her medical team imparts.
Still, she hasn’t given up, and her doctors tell her that treatment is progressing well.
BREAKING NEWS! As of August 11, Trisha’s oncologist informed her that she has seven more radiations, another biopsy surgery and one more PET scan. If they all come out clean then she would be considered in remission and would be able to have surgery to remove the port. Tentatively the biopsy surgery takes place in September if blood work scheduled for August 30 comes back with acceptable results.
She looks forward to being able to work again, hopefully utilizing that hard-earned restaurant management degree. To marry that love with another of her passions, she hopes to be able to feed firefighters and wildfire survivors. While the Mother Lode region of California is where her roots lie, she’d love to travel all over California and even up to Washington, one of four states left to complete another bucket list goal: visiting all fifty. Third on her list of must-dos? A motorcycle ride. She says, “Some of my biggest support has come from a Sonora motorcycle group.”
Trisha calls herself a very private person, and it has not been easy to talk about her condition—or her needs. Luckily friends and especially her MF&E teammates jumped in immediately to offer help.
Because she’s currently not able to work and often not able to provide meals for herself, there are ways the community can give back to Trisha for the thousands of hours she’s donated to us.
- She posts household needs on an Amazon wish list—thankfully growing shorter and shorter because of the generosity of friends who are determined to not only see her survive but thrive.
- Friends have set up a GoFundMe to assist with financial needs since she’s unable to work for the foreseeable future, to provide for gasoline, living and other expenses
- A meal-train has been set up to provide meals when she’s not up to cooking for herself.
To connect with Trisha, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may want to ask her about other ways you can assist besides those listed above, if you’d be more comfortable with something else.
Important Emergency Links
Note that links to Trisha’s sites and email are listed above.
Mountain Fire & Emergency — You must be a Facebook member and be admitted to the group.
Madera County MC Alert — If you aren’t signed up for the county’s alert system, go there now. Don’t wait for an emergency.