As much of California continues to wait for power to be restored during the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), we saw some 275 fires break out across the state Thursday.
Here in the Gold Country Region, Disaster Program Manager Patricia Davis is representing the Red Cross at the State Operations Center as we monitor developments statewide.
Of note are the Sandlewood Fire in the Desert to the Sea Region and the Saddleridge Fire in the Los Angeles Region.
Desert to the Sea opened a shelter with an overnight population of 16. They have a Disaster Relief Operation (DRO) up and running and have all of the resources they need, according to Division Disaster Executive Denise Everhart.
The Los Angeles Region has opened four shelters, two of which have reached capacity and they are prepared to open more.
“While it may seem that wildfires are a way of life in California in the fall, people have been forced to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night, the smoke is affecting everyone, and the fear is real,” noted Everhart in message to Pacific Division leadership.
“Some people have lost everything, but as always, the Red Cross is there helping alleviate suffering in the face of these wildfires by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
With these developments comes this guidance from the American Red Cross: Be prepared. Disasters unfold very quickly and can leave little time for last-minute decision-making if you are forced to evacuate.
Wildfires can be nearly as impossible to prevent, and as difficult to control, as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. The fall wildfire season typically begins mid-October and continues through December. Fires can happen any time of year, but there is a higher risk during this period because of low-humidity and other fire-conducive conditions.
With millions of homes near woodlands, the American Red Cross offers tips on what to do if a wildfire threatens so you can better protect yourself and your loved ones.
A wildfire can spread very quickly, giving you little time to evacuate to safety. Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Obey evacuation orders from officials.
- Back your car into the garage or park it outside in the direction of your evacuation route.
- Confine pets to one room so you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
- Limit exposure to smoke and dust – keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
- Do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor pollution such as candles, fire places and gas stoves.
If you are trapped outdoors, crouch in a pond, river or pool.
- Do not put wet clothing or bandanas over your mouth or nose. Moist air causes more damage to airways than dry air at the same temperature.
- If there is no body of water, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks. Lie flat, face down, and cover your body with soil. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching your lungs or inhaling smoke.
Do not return home until officials say it is safe to do so.
- Inspect the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers. Wildfires may have left embers that could reignite.
- For several hours afterward, recheck for smoke and sparks throughout the home, including the attic. Keep checking your home for embers that could cause fires.
DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hand for more than 35 customizable severe weather and emergency alerts. The Red Cross First Aid App provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. Download these apps for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.
If you would like to support the American Red Cross disaster relief efforts with a financial donation, please visit redcross.org.
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.
Richard “Don” Johnston
Twenty-three years ago, Richard Johnston retired as an electronic supervisor at the Stockton Navy Communication Station. Not one to sit for very long, Richard immediately got busy refinishing furniture. He also took on huge responsibilities at his church, doing maintenance and managing the kitchen; overseeing the weekly Wednesday night dinners and all of the banquets. All of this was not enough. Richard sought out a volunteer position at his local blood center (then, Delta Blood Bank), ten years ago.
Richard has been a loyal and committed Delta Blood Bank/American Red Cross volunteer for a decade, at both the Stockton Blood Center and at mobiles, AND; he shows no sign of slowing down! During our transition to become American Red Cross, we needed more volunteer power. Richard contributed over 800 hours during the transition period!
“As a volunteer, I believe it is our responsibility to be attentive during our time serving. When a donor is at the counter for their goodies, I maintain constant contact with them, ensuring they are not having problems. I do not watch the TV while donors are at the counter. I believe it is our responsibility to maintain a constant vigil at all times. To be consistent in my duties, I read the Volunteer Guidelines posted on the bulletin board each week. This reminds me of my responsibilities to the donor.”
Richard is also a whole blood and platelet donor, and at this writing was closing in on his 27-gallon goal.
James Thompson (Newman, CA) has been volunteering at Delta Region blood drives for two years and donating blood for ten. James enjoys the conversations with donors… A LOT! So much so that he has broken records, once volunteering for four drives in one week: a high school, a police department, a fire department and, fulfilled his weekly shift at Turlock Blood Center. But wait! That’s not all! In the middle of that very busy week, James managed to sandwich in a Power Red donation! GO JAMES!
We are looking for highly energized and service-minded individuals to help us further the mission of the American Red Cross as AmeriCorps members! You will work with the American Red Cross to provide vital emergency assistance to individuals affected by disaster and prepare vulnerable communities before disasters strike.
- Living stipend
- $10,000 Education Award
- Health care coverage
- Student loan forbearance
More information here:
Did you know that we are sending Red Cross volunteers from the Gold Country Region to Louisiana ahead of Tropical Storm Barry?
It’s true! We will be posting updates and photos from our volunteers on the ground as soon as we can.
Thank you, volunteers, for stepping up to help those in need!