Sierra Central Credit Union President/CEO John Cassidy (left) and Redwood Credit Union President/CEO Brett Martinez (right) discuss disaster preparedness strategies.

Hollywood, Calif. – In October 2017, wildfires near Redding, Calif., destroyed more than 7,000 homes and impacted thousands of Redwood Credit Union members in the way of lost property, lost jobs and suffered psychological damage. Speaking to attendees at the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ REACH conference Thursday, Brett Martinez, president/CEO of the $4.4 billion, Santa Rosa, Calif.-based RCU, described how the credit union offered members 0% interest loans, waived ATM fees, halted loan payment collections and launched a construction loan program during the fire’s aftermath. The ordeal cost the credit union about $1 million.

Meanwhile, Sierra Central Credit Union President/CEO John Cassidy, who spoke alongside Martinez, informed attendees that a new fire was threatening his credit union at that very moment. As of Saturday, the “Camp Fire” in California’s Butte County, one of three fires that broke out in the state Thursday, had completely devastated the town of Paradise, where one of Sierra Central’s branches is located. NBC News reported about 80% to 90% of the town’s homes have been destroyed.

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Natasha Chilingerian

Natasha Chilingerian has worked in the credit union space for over a decade. She joined CU Times as managing editor in 2015 and was promoted to executive editor in 2019. Before that, she served as a communications specialist for Xceed Financial Credit Union (now Kinecta Federal Credit Union) in Los Angeles from 2013-2015, and as a CU Times freelancer from 2011-2013. She has been a professional writer and editor for more than 17 years, specializing in news and lifestyle journalism as well as marketing copywriting for companies in the finance and technology space.

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