Written by Red Cross Volunteer, Caroline Nilsson
~UPDATE: As of July 17, 7:00am, evacuations had been lifted and Bully Fire shelter is now closed~
After three consecutive years of California drought, fires start easily. The Bully Fire in Shasta County has burned more than 10,000 acres so far, forcing the residents of the Trinity Alps Preserve to flee their homes. The American Red Cross is here, offering shelter and comfort to those who have been evacuated.
A Red Cross shelter was first opened on Friday night and stayed open until Saturday, when the danger was believed to have passed. Evacuation orders were reduced to a “soft closure,” and residents were permitted to re-enter their homes. Adverse weather conditions subsequently caused the fire to jump a fire break and the shelter was re-opened Monday morning. It currently houses eight evacuees, and serves as a gathering point and information center for many other members of this tight-knit and self-reliant community.
The shelter is quiet, air-conditioned and comfortable, and located right in the middle of Igo. There’s a playground for the kids. Three meals a day are being provided by the Salvation Army, a Red Cross partner agency. A CAL FIRE representative visits regularly to keep everyone well-informed, and a welcoming team of Red Cross volunteers are staffing the shelter around the clock. The atmosphere is relaxed as the evacuees wait out the fire.
Red Cross volunteer Frank Piccola returned to the shelter after performing disaster assessment in the affected area. He described fire lines running up steep slopes that sharply demarked the boundaries of the fire, one side green and the other burned black; and he described the smell of sewage coming from the shadowy lines of septic pipes that had melted despite being buried under the earth. Frank reported one home and numerous outbuildings lost.
California is at risk of destructive wildfires every year, but with the ongoing drought conditions, it is easy to see just how much those risks have increased. As the battle continues to gain control over the flames and residents work to process the uncertainty of it all, the Red Cross is here meeting emergency needs and helping our community in any way we can.