Camp Fire Reflections: The Power of Partnerships During a Major Disaster

When the Red Cross is involved in a disaster response, partnerships with local organizations are key to successfully meeting the needs of the many displaced residents who come to us seeking shelter, care and hope.

As the first anniversary of the Camp Fire is just a day away, we wanted our readers to look back at this story about the commitment of several community partners who helped relay information around the territory and care for the many displaced livestock and pets.

Gold Country News and Notes

Through successful collaboration between the American Red Cross and five local organizations — North Valley Animal Disaster Group, University of California Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team, Birch Valley Ranch Equestrian School, Gridley FFA, Chico FFA, County and Yuba-Sutter Amateur Radio Emergency Services — the Butte County Fair Grounds shelter in Gridley, California, has become a safe haven for families, farm animals and those with domestic pets.

The Red Cross continues to support the shelter with volunteers providing food and emotional support. Volunteers have welcomed hundreds of displaced community residents who have no place to go. The shelter, which is located south of the Camp Fire, is still open to all those seeking shelter and resources.

PARTNER_Collaboration2The North Valley Animal Disaster Group (NVADG) continues taking in livestock and is working with the UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team, as well as the Birch Valley Ranch Equestrian School, to provide the animals…

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Four Heroes and an Unforgettable Bus Ride to Save Their Students

On October 16, 2019, the American Red Cross in Greater New York and Friese Foundation honored Kevin McKay, Mary Petersen Ludwig, Abigail Gerspacher-Davis and Allyn Pierce for their heroic actions in helping students and patients evacuate during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California.

Their story made headlines around the world.

This week, the Gold Country Region is reflecting on the people who were directly affected by the Camp Fire, and the many Red Cross volunteers and staff who worked tirelessly to help them in their recovery.

A Red Cross Volunteer Earns Her Wings

As we reflect on all that happened during and after the Camp Fire of 2018, we at the Red Cross are reminded of the critical role our disaster spiritual care volunteers had in helping people displaced by the wildfire as they processed the enormity of California’s largest and most destructive fire. Take a look at the story of volunteer Cynthia Bellina. #campfire

Gold Country News and Notes

When Paul Royce, known to the locals as “Turtle,” lost his home in the fire that devastated Paradise, California, he was really was at a loss as to what he would do next.  “I’ve lived in communes, and I’ve lived on the road, but right now, I haven’t a clue as to where I’ll be.  I have absolutely nowhere to go.”

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Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care Volunteer, Cynthia Bellina, heard about Turtle’s dilemma at the Red Cross shelter in Chico and knew she had to act. “Turtle needed that little extra care. He’s lived the most interesting and exciting life. In listening to his stories about his life I could understand his need for independence and his zest for life. I just couldn’t say no. I knew I had to help; I just had to!”

Bellina wasted no time. Turtle wanted to relocate to the Grass Valley in California. So…

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Red Cross Monitors Fires Across State as Fall Fire Season Takes Shape

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.

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“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.

Be Prepared

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

If you would like to support the American Red Cross disaster relief efforts with a financial donation, please visit


Safety, Comfort and Security Offered at Mountain Fire Shelter in Redding

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.

Mountain Fire Shelter Staff
Red Cross shelter staff prepare for visitors during this week’s Mountain Fire evacuation.

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

Meet Super Volunteer, Richard Johnston

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 niJohnstonght 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 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.