As the American Red Cross continues to help people impacted by the recent back-to-back hurricanes, it is also helping families affected by deadly wildfires in California. Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground now as part of a large team of agencies and organizations providing support to communities turned upside down by this latest disaster.
The American Red Cross is in California, providing shelter, food and comfort as residents cope with the deadliest week of wildfires in state history. About 101,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders, including the entire town of Calistoga, most having only a few minutes to flee their neighborhood. As many as 33,000 homes are threatened by the out-of-control fires.
The fires have already burned more than 162,000 acres and destroyed some 1,300 homes. Several hospitals have been evacuated, thousands are without power and schools are closed. Wineries in the Napa Valley have been affected, putting many people out of work. The Tubbs fire is already the 12th most destructive wildfire on record in California, and it is still burning out of control.
On Monday alone, the fast-moving fires burned an area the size of a football field every three seconds. That’s 20,000 acres scorched in as little as 12 hours. No rain is expected in the region for the next week. The exceptionally dry weather and at times hurricane-strength winds in California could spark additional fires, and the existing fires may spread rapidly and unpredictably.
Red Cross Response
Alongside partners, more than 430 Red Cross disaster workers are supporting evacuation centers where people can find safe refuge from the fires, reconnect with loved ones and get information. Thousands of additional cots, blankets and relief items have been mobilized in case additional shelters are needed.
·Overnight, almost 5,000 people stayed in 57 Red Cross and community shelters across the state.
·The Red Cross is providing meals, health services, comfort and other support for affected residents coming to our shelters. With the help of partners, the Red Cross has served more than 20,000 meals and snacks, and provided more than 1,100 mental health and health services to support and care for those affected.
·With hundreds of people reported as missing, it’s critical to help people reconnect with their loved ones. Red Cross volunteers at our shelters are helping people to register on Safe and Well to facilitate reunification.
Additional volunteers from across the country are traveling now to California to support sheltering, feeding, logistics and planning efforts. The Red Cross is also working closely with government and community partners to coordinate relief efforts. Some of the partners we are working with include Children’s Disaster Services, the Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
Stories from the Ground
Although Stan Carrington, Madelyn DeSalvo and Kathy Buzzini lived in the Del Nido apartment complex in Santa Rosa for years, they never met each other until Monday October 9. At 3:00 in the morning, all three received an automated call saying, “Evacuate now!” When Madelyn stepped outside her home, she could smell the thick smoke in the air and she knew she might have to evacuate. She ran back in her apartment, grabbed her cat and convened with other neighbors from her complex.
Another neighbor that she had never met heard that a shelter was open at the Veterans’ Hall in Santa Rosa. That neighbor drove Stan, Kathy and Madelyn and her cat to the shelter. By the time they arrived there at 4:00 a.m., the doors were open and Red Cross staff and volunteers were ready to begin registering people. Within the hour, coffee was brewing and being offered to everyone. One Red Cross volunteer found a cardboard crate to house Madelyn’s cat. Soon, breakfast was being served.
Madelyn couldn’t get over all they were able to accomplish. “I just don’t know how they did this so quickly. Everyone has been so wonderful here!” When asked if the friendship between the three of them would continue, Stan said, “We are now friends for life.”
If you need the location of a shelter or other help, you should follow your local media or go to redcross.org and check the shelter map.
People can also find a shelter by downloading the free Red Cross Emergency App. The Emergency App also puts wildfire safety tips at your fingertips. The app is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.
Anyone who plans to stay in a Red Cross shelter should bring prescription medications, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, other comfort items and important documents. Don’t forget to bring any special items for children, such as diapers, formula and toys, or for family members who have unique needs.