Community Connector: How Red Cross volunteers link residents to resources after wildfires

By Alicia Dorr

Evelyn McMahon has always been a connector. She likes helping people gain access to resources, to provide them with support, to listen to them and help them navigate barriers so that they can live healthier, happier lives. That’s why she says she loves serving as a Community Engagement and Partnerships (CEP) volunteer. Evelyn has taken on this role as a part of the response to the Mosquito fire and the Mill fire in Northern California.

“It is very gratifying work,” Evelyn says. “When you connect a person who has a need to something that will make a difference – it’s just wonderful.”

As a CEP volunteer, Evelyn is constantly interacting with community organizations, businesses, churches, local authorities and more to ensure residents affected by the wildfires get everything they need to get back on their feet. She IDs all of the resources in the community and gives that information and help to residents who may not have known what was available to them.

“We help agencies and partners in the community understand what people need, too. We thank them for the support and help them understand the extent of the need so we can coordinate,” Evelyn explains.

This was especially important in the case of the Mill fire. Evelyn says she feels really privileged to have worked with in Weed, California. Within the town is an area called Lincoln Heights, a historically black community settled by black lumber mill workers in the 1920s. The Mill fire is believed to have sparked near the Roseburg Forest Products lumber mill, just down the road from Lincoln Heights, where the quick-moving flames destroyed or damaged a significant number of homes. Evelyn says despite the devastation, the community is incredibly resilient.

“They want to move back. When you look in their faces, you see hope,” Evelyn says. “So we’re going to do what we have to do to get them what they need.”

She and other Red Crossers gathered information about all of the affected families and learned what was lost and what benefits were available. Evelyn worked with local officials, agencies, churches, community centers and more to connect them to everything from replacing lost medical supplies to options for long-term shelter.

Evelyn is passionate about the work because she says she sees the difference it makes, every day. Whether she’s working to help people after a disaster like a wildfire or she is in her home state of North Carolina doing day to day connection to resources after home fires, she says volunteering with the Red Cross is definitely worth it – and she recommends it to anyone.

“If you like helping people even a little bit, you will love being a volunteer for Red Cross.”

To find out more about the Red Cross mission and what volunteer roles might interest you visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Evacuees thank Red Cross volunteers at shelter before heading home after wildfires

By Alicia Dorr

“The Red Cross volunteers fly in from all over, give up their time – I didn’t know that. They go above and beyond,” Marco says. “It’s a lousy situation, but they are the best of it.”

Marco blowing up a balloon animal for the shelter manager, Addie, as a thank you. The Cameron Park shelter closed today as all residents affected in that area have evacuation orders lifted.

Marco, known as Marco in the Morning, is a local radio host in one of the evacuation areas in El Dorado county. He hasn’t been home for nearly two weeks, but he was able to go home as evacuation orders were lifted. He says he is impressed by the American Red Cross volunteers who have been helping others during this trying time.

“The Red Cross volunteers fly in from all over, give up their time – I didn’t know that. They go above and beyond,” Marco says. “It’s a lousy situation, but they are the best of it.”

Red Cross shelters in response to the Mosquito Fire have closed, and all of the affected residents have been connected with long-term lodging solutions. While evacuation orders have been lifted, the Red Cross response doesn’t just end. Our volunteers are out in the communities handing out supplies, snacks, cleaning kits, and providing services for anyone affected as they work to get back on their feet.

You can help people affected by disasters like fires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift is a commitment to helping people in need, and every single donation matters. Call 1-800-RED CROSS to find out more today.

‘There’s No Place Like Home’ – Reflections from a Mosquito Fire Shelter Guest as He Prepares to Leave

By Alicia Dorr

During the Mosquito Fire, Glenn Lodwig, Jr. stayed at the Red Cross shelter at Sierra College in Rocklin for more than 11 days and says he is thankful for the support.

Glenn Lodwig, Jr. expressed his appreciation for the Red Cross during the Mosquito Fire evacuations.

“It’s been charitable and kind.”

But – as the saying goes, “There’s no place like home,” Glenn says.

Glenn says if he had to pay for shelter at a hotel he would have been out of money in just days, but the Red Cross shelter at Sierra College allowed him to continue his life until the evacuation order lifts.

“Everything went smooth. There were meals, coffee – I could take a shower and get to work every day,” Glenn says.

As Glenn and others like him transition back to home, it is vital to remember that the Red Cross is there for you every day for every disaster – large or small.

We will be with these evacuees as they make their way back, but easiest way to help people like those affected by the wildfires in California is simply to give a donation. Call 1-800-RED-CROSS to find out more.

A Story in Pictures: A Day in the Life of the Sierra College Red Cross Shelter

Mosquito Fire Evacuee Thankful for Community Support at Shelter

Derek Jones’ dogs, Nelson and Roscoe, rest in the parking lot of the Red Cross shelter at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif.

By Debbie Imlay, Volunteer

In the first week of September, Derek Jones was forced to evacuate from his mobile home in Foresthill with his two dogs, Nelson and Roscoe.

His neighborhood was under a mandatory evacuation order due to the Mosquito Fire. He was among dozens of people at the Red Cross shelter at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif.

“I was so scared and in tears,” Jones said. “One of my neighbors came up and handed
me the key to one of his spare vehicles and said, ‘Get your dogs and your stuff and get off the hill.’”

Jones said the most important thing for him was to make sure his two dogs were safe. He evacuated from Foresthill wearing only the clothes on his back. But he said the generosity of community donations, either directly or through non-profit agencies, has been a blessing.

Mosquito Fire evacuee Derek Jones took refuge at the Red Cross shelter in Rocklin, Calif. with his two dogs.

As one of many evacuees who chose to stay outside the Sierra College shelter with his pets, Jones gave thanks to the citizens of Rocklin for their generosity and compassion toward the shelter guests who camped outside.

“Now I’ve got about 10 outfits, all the supplies, all the dog food, cases of water, air
mattress,” Jones said.

You can support Red Cross disaster relief by making a financial donation at or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Hoy Family Finds Help at Local Assistance Center in Weed, Calif.

By Marcia Antipa, Volunteer

Eric and Yvette Hoy’s family has farmed in Siskiyou County on the same piece of property for five generations.  Now the farm’s future legacy is at risk, after the Mill Fire swept through earlier this month, destroying the family’s home, barn and grazing lands.

“It’s all I’ve ever done. It’s all I’ve ever known,” said Eric.

The Mill Fire destroyed the Hoy family’s barn, home and grazing lands. Their 400 head of cattle survived.

On September 9, Red Cross Volunteers helped Eric and his wife, Yvette, take their first steps toward recovery, at the Local Assistance Center in Weed.  

The Red Cross joined dozens of county agencies and nonprofit organizations in offering help to people who survived the wildfire. For example, the California Department of Motor Vehicles provided temporary driver’s licenses, and county health workers gave out tetanus shots and other immunizations. Families also were able to pick up food boxes and other supplies.

Red Cross caseworkers documented the losses these people suffered, and in some cases, offering financial assistance. Other Red Crossers handed out cleanup kits, rakes, shovels and other supplies to help families whose homes were left in rubble.

Eric and Yvette were still reeling from the fire, staying in a hotel and trying to plan their next moves.  For now, they are grateful that they and their little dog, Lincoln. Their 400 head of cattle were able to survive the fire also. 

The Hoy family’s 400 head of cattle after the Mill Fire swept through their property.

If you would like to support Red Cross disaster relief, consider a financial donation by visiting or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Evacuated Family Grows After Taking on Abandoned Kittens

By Alicia Door

Isabella Stigen and her boyfriend were camping in Dru Barner Campground near Georgetown, Calif., when they received the notice to evacuate due to the Mosquito Fire. Thankfully, she says, they were in a box truck they had recently bought so they could safely bring their dog and new kitten with them for the trip.

Isabella says they were on their way out when they saw a litter of abandoned kittens. As the evacuation order loomed, they tried to help.

“There were three, and the other two just scattered. They seemed strong. But this one – it was almost like she picked me,” Isabella says.

“There wasn’t enough room for two trucks at our family’s home, so we are just happy we get to be here,” Isabella Stigen says.

Gypsy, as the new kitten is called, is safe with her new family as they wait for evacuation orders to be lifted. They are all staying in the box truck together in the parking lot of the American Red Cross shelter at Sierra Community College in Rocklin where they have access to regular meals, facilities and showers, a mobile laundry service, along with comfort and care from Red Cross volunteers.

“There wasn’t enough room for two trucks at our family’s home, so we are just happy we get to be here,” Isabella said.

Help those affected by wildfires and other disasters across the nation by making a financial donation, big or small, to the Red Cross. For more information on how you can donate call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit

Local Assistance Center Opens for Those Impacted by Mill Fire

By Marcia Antipa

Help is on the way for people whose lives have been affected by the recent Siskiyou County Mill Fire.  County officials opened a Local Assistance Center (LAC) at the Weed Community Center, 161 East Lincoln Avenue in Weed, CA.

The center is a one-stop opportunity for people to find assistance on their road to recovery.  County and state government services, nonprofit groups, churches, animal assistance groups and many more services providers are on hand, all under one roof at the community center.

For example, people affected by the fires can get a temporary driver’s license from the California Department of Motor Vehicles,  vouchers for free eye exams and replacement eyeglasses lost in the fire, immunizations from County Health and Human Services, and much more. 

American Red Cross volunteers will also be on hand to provide fire clean-up kits and other resources.  

The Local Assistance Center opened Friday, September 9, and will remain open until Sunday, September 11. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Meet Muriel Harsh, Lake Shastina resident and wildfire evacuee

By Barbara Wood, Red Cross volunteer

Muriel Harsh has lived in the Northern California community of Lake Shastina for nearly four decades, but only twice has the 95-year-old had to evacuate her home and move into a Red Cross shelter because of a wildfire – last year in July for the Lava Fire and this year for the Mill Fire.

On September 3, Muriel sat in a borrowed wheelchair, wrapped up in Red Cross blankets, and talked about her beloved home she hoped to soon return to.

“I’m anxious to go home,” she said, and was especially worried about her elderly cat she’d left behind with food and water because it was too old to travel.

Muriel said she has views of Mt. Shasta from windows in her home and until recently loved to get out and hike in the area.

Muriel’s son Sonny, who lives with her in Lake Shastina, said he got a warning that an evacuation was imminent on his cell phone on Friday soon after the fast-moving fire started. Not much later, a sheriff’s deputy knocked on their door and told them to go.

Sonny took a suitcase he had packed for a weekend visit with a friend, but Muriel left with only the clothes she was wearing. They spent one night in a motel before moving to the Red Cross shelter opened at the Karuk Wellness Center in Yreka. When they got there Red Cross nurses loaned Muriel a wheelchair to use.

Both said the Red Cross has been taking good care of them while the await word on the fate of their home.

Firefighters Lose Vehicles, Equipment in Six Rivers Lightning Complex, Walk Out of Fire Zone and Find Refuge at Red Cross Shelter

By Peg Taylor, Volunteer

It was all hands on deck for firefighters in Humboldt and Trinity counties over the weekend.

Twelve fires began Friday, August 5, sparked by thunderstorms that moved across the region. Due to efforts of firefighters, eight fires remained active, earning the name Six Rivers Lightning Complex.

(When there are two or more wildfires burning close together in the same area, they are often called a complex and attacked by firefighters under a unified command).

Firefighters from hundreds of miles around rolled into the region to help fight the fires. Among them were the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians’ Red Hawk Crew of 19 firefighters. The crew from El Dorado County traveled six hours to report for duty.

The 19 firefighters were on the fire line when the fire took an unexpected run and destroyed their two crew transport vehicles. Fortunately, the vehicles were far from the crew and no one was hurt.

Personal items, food, tents, sleeping bags, as well as equipment and gear needed to continue fighting the fire had been in the transport vehicles and were all destroyed. 

The crew was left with only the clothes on their backs.

They were in the forest with no transportation out and nowhere to stay.

That night, after walking to a U.S. Forestry Service ranger station, the group could only find lodging an hour away but still had no transportation.

When the American Red Cross was made aware of the firefighters’ situation, they reached out to offer the firefighters a safe place to sleep.

Arrangements were quickly made to transport the group to the Red Cross shelter in Willow Creek. 

“I am very proud we were here to be able to assist the firefighters,” said Red Cross shelter manager Angi Irmer. “In a sense, they were also evacuees and lost what personal belongings they had with them. They were so gracious and very thankful for our help.”

Nineteen firefighters who lost equipment and vehicles in the Six Rivers Lightning Complex spent the night at a Red Cross shelter while they waited for transport back home to El Dorado County, Calif.

“The Red Cross really saved our butts and we can’t thank them enough,” said Chris McClendon, Fire Lead of the Red Hawk crew. “We got beds and help as soon as we walked in.

“They set us up in our own little area in a gym and we were able to sleep all night. We were really well taken care of. The next morning, we met some of the evacuees and got to talk to them. They seemed pretty grateful we had traveled so far to help them. That felt pretty good.”

The 19 firefighters were waiting for a bus to take them home to El Dorado County so they could regroup, restock their equipment, replace lost personal items, and get ready to redeploy to the fire, if needed. 

With all that happened to them, they’re ready to go back.

“We go to this neck of the woods multiple times a year,” McClendon said, “So we’re ready to help, if needed.”