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Auto Dismantler Donates Work To Wine Country Wildfire Victims

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) -- A Sonoma County man is making it his mission to remove cars burned in the wine country wildfires and get them to scrapyards.

The reason: he doesn't want people who have lost absolutely everything to pay anything to remove the burned-out hulks in front of their destroyed properties.

There are 248 burned-out cars in the streets of the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa.

They sit in a jurisdictional no-man's-land inside a neighborhood that is no longer habitable.

So the Santa Rosa Police Department has called in auto dismantler and Sonoma County native Joe Cream to come clear the burned autobodies out.

"There are no oils, no gasoline, no fluids. Nothing," said Cream. "They are completely burned. Everything is burned in them."

It's a massive job that extends beyond Coffey Park and one that also hits home.

Cream's daughter lost her home in the fire. So for her, and his community, he's clearing and scrapping for free.

"We are doing this for the county, for the cities, we're doing this for free to help the community out, because we're in a turmoil right now," said Cream. "We want to do right with everybody. Sonoma County needs us, basically."

He answers the call by taking the charred shells and loading them on his trucks one-by-one. They go to his yard, where they get smashed into scrap and sent to a recycling center in Redwood City, clearing the way for debris clean up.

All the cars towed have been photographed by Santa Rosa PD. The address where they're found in written on the side then marked with a circle with an "X" in it. that's how Cream knows it's his to tow.

Insurance companies say they handled most, if not all, of their auto claims within 36 hours of the fire.

Cream is also contracted to take the cars cleared by the Army Corps of Engineers from properties, about 600 in Coffey Park alone, he said, and an estimated 9,000 in the whole county.

Cream says he would normally charge about $50 to remove an individual car.

"It's going to take us a few months and we have more places to go," said Cream. "We have Fountaingrove, we have Larkspur, they're calling me in Napa County. We're just trying to do our best for everybody and we are going as fast as we can."

When the scrapped cars get to Redwood City, they are ultimately shredded and then sent to China where the metal is used to make other cars, which are ultimately sent back to the U.S.


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