By Nicole Ritchie, Red Cross Volunteer
The Mountain Fire began late Thursday morning just northeast of Redding, California. As the blaze quickly grew, some 1,100 structures were threatened and an estimated 3,885 people were told to evacuate.
By mid-afternoon a Red Cross evacuation center was opened at the Crosspointe Community Church in Redding.
In a community still recovering from the devastating Carr Fire last summer, tensions were high. Throughout the day, Red Cross volunteers handed out water and snacks to evacuees who came by while anxiously awaiting news about the fire.
Shelter manager Janice Johnson said that most people who visited the evacuation center did not register to stay the night.
“They are just checking in. They want to see there is a place to go if needed,” she said.
A visitor named Jeri, who had been at a shelter during the Carr Fire, was one who decided to stay the night at Crosspointe. She shared that her husband passed away last year.
“It’s scary to be alone not knowing what’s going to happen with the fire. I feel safe at the shelter,” Jeri said.
On the cot next to her sat another evacuee, Doris, who stated simply, “Thank you. I really appreciate having a place to go.”
Eleven evacuees spent the night at the shelter as Red Cross volunteers for the overnight shift relieved fellow volunteers who had worked hard all day.
Shelter manager Johnson who has been involved in opening several shelters over the last year explained, “When you open a shelter you just don’t know what to expect. Will no one show up? Will 200?”
It’s the unpredictable nature of a disaster. What can be counted on is that the American Red Cross will to be there to provide safe shelter, nourishing food and compassionate care.
Locate open shelters around the country here.
If you are interested in volunteering with the Red Cross or supporting our mission with a donation, visit redcross.org.