HAPPY CAMP, Cal. -- On September 8, 2020, the Slater Fire was surging towards the small town of Happy Camp. It is otherwise known as 'The Heart of the Klamath.'
As citizens like Vicki McInnis ran from their homes wondering if they would ever see it again, some people were staying behind.
"I mean, it is just so hard to leave your things behind and worry about them," said Partners Deli and Arcade owner Dave Effman.
Effman is referring to those who chose not to evacuate the area as the fire got closer and closer.
McInnis chose to leave her home but did not make it too far away. Instead, she fled with her son to her son's father's house. That is where all of them decided to shelter at a nearby riverbank.
"It was very intense. You didn't go to sleep, I can tell you that. You watched," said McInnis while describing the terrifying night.
The flames would come within a football field of their riverbank campsite.
McInnis had left just about everything at her house. She attempted to get back into Happy Camp for a second load of items. She was not allowed back in. That means that all of the food in the house stayed there.
That is where Effman comes in. Effman is the owner of a tiny deli in the heart of Happy Camp.
"Well I knew people had to eat, and I knew there were people that wouldn't leave," said Effman.
"So he put out on Facebook that anyone that was hungry could come down and get a meal from him because money was no good in Happy Camp," said McInnis. "There were no stores that were open."
Before everything closed up shop, Effman took 1,000 dollars out of his own bank account and started cooking. He started feeding anyone that could make it to his deli to get food. Then, the fire made even that impossible.
"Then, the Sheriff's Office said I could not do that because they could not differentiate between the people that wanted to eat and the people that wanted to loot," said Effman.
So, in the midst of one of the scariest nights of his life, Effman reverted to Plan B.
"When it wasn't safe us to come he said 'Don't go. Stay there. I will come to you.' He came with that smile on his face and that care in his heart," said McInnis.
Then, the kindness started to move like a chain reaction.
"Then a really good thing happened as I was running out of funds," said Effman. "Somes Bar and Orleans Slater Fire Support and several others started donating items."
In total, Effman delivered 47 free meals to the people of Happy Camp per day for five consecutive days. He is still providing food for people that need it.
"It speaks of the heart of the community here," said McInnis. "That is why I live here. I mean, it is not because it is like, sometimes living isn't easy up here. But I will tell you what, you don't get that kind of stuff in other places."
McInnis describes Effman as a hero. When you ask Effman if he is a hero, his response is more muted.
"No. I am just a regular person."
If that is the regular person living in Happy Camp, 'The Heart of the Klamath' is beating strong.