A Day in the Life of a Disaster Action Team Member

Heath Wakelee

At 12:30 am early Wednesday  morning the phone rang and the cheerful but very dreary voice of Debbie Calcote was saying hello.  I recognized her voice immediately and knew that Debbie would only be calling me if she had exhausted all other options.  Sure nuff – that was the case.

OK I said, I’ll go to Woodland…..Woodland??  Michael Reeves from Sacramento was my partner and he arrived about 1:05 am, 10 minutes before me.  He had called me and said that the location had no fire equipment and no clients.  “Holed on” I said, I’ll be there in 10 minutes and I was.

The street was wet and outside both the front and back doors there was evidence of burned debris being thrown out.  The smell of smoke was fresh but no clients and no fire department…..so I called Debbie.  No contact info for the clients who said that they would stick around and wait for us.  Which they did not.

Fortunately (use of that word is debatable) for Debbie – she had just received another request for a DAT response to Knights Landing.  “Where is Knights Landing” I said and Debbie said “I don’t know.”  Great…I’m thinking it is down in the delta somewhere…..so I punched the address into my navigation system and fortunately it said that the address was only 20 minutes away.  It was now about 1:30 am when Michael and I headed to Knights Landing.

We arrived at about 2:00 am to find a single woman standing near her burned out mobile home.  Temperature about 35°F.  Luckily the trailer park manager allowed us to use her tiny office to do the paperwork.  Our client’s  options were few so we helped her with lodging, food and clothing, comfort kit and well wishes.  We do not carry street sheets for every county nor lists of hotels and perhaps we can put that on the web somewhere so it would be accessible to anyone in need (or perhaps it is already available and I just don’t have the info).

We departed at 3:00 am and I was home at 4:00 am to enter the paperwork and hit the sack by 5:00 am this morning.  Sleep was compromised because the house was very, very cold – turns out the heating system went out and the temperature outside was a cool 34°F.  Fortunately is was only in the low 60s inside.  Long story short – heater repair is now scheduled for tomorrow – Thursday.  Burrrr.

Very glad that we were able to help the one client.  Hopefully She is sleeping somewhere warm tonight.   Our electric blankets will be on high.

My very best to all …. and to all a good night.

Butte Fire – Stories from the Front Lines

Author: Rich Woodruff, Deployed from Salt Lake City, Utah

Rich visits one of the home sites ravaged by the Butte Fire
                              Rich Woodruff surveys one of the home sites ravaged by the Butte Fire

The Red Cross Story at the Butte fire is not a single story, but many stories as communities, government, interfaith communities and businesses come together during times of crisis.  The media has played a critical role in disseminating information to the public and raising funds for the Red Cross through telethons and other campaigns.

MobileFeedings2The Red Cross has been distributing cleaning supplies and food at many areas affected by the Butte Fire. Just yesterday, when our emergency response vehicle was arriving to one of the areas that was blackened by the fire, people camping on their decimated property began wandering down from the hills in dire need of food, clothing, bedding, batteries, diapers, dog food … the list goes on and on.

Red Cross volunteers were there to greet them with a warm smile, hugs and more. Our mission there was twofold: to distribute relief and clean up supplies as well as serving lunch prepared by the Southern Baptist remote kitchen in nearby San Andreas.  The kitchen cooks thousands of meals a day and Red Cross ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicles) get them to the people where they are since most have lost their transportation.  Today’s lunch was chicken fingers, potato salad and homemade banana pudding.  The food was fresh and warm thanks to the special insulation containers used in the ERV’s.20150920_130752

One story that really touched me was the story of Mary from the Mountain Ranch area. Mary had not eaten in two days and was scouring the makeshift store for diapers, bedding, clean clothes and just basic needs like toiletries.   She also was asking about burn cream for her cat that had wandered on to the smoldering ashes of her property.  I quickly joined her rummaging through boxes finally coming upon some Aloe Vera.  At this time, her pet’s needs were more important to her than her own needs. She rushed to put some of the aloe vera on her cat… we waited and invited her to eat some food. While she was eating, Mary shared her story and appreciation for our immediate concern and help. A few minutes later, a line was forming behind the Red Cross supply truck full of rakes, garbage bags, gloves, buckets, dust masks and other clean-up supplies.

Another person affected by the Butte Fire, showed up with another specific need. Bob, was asking if we had any sifters and thanks to the generosity of Ace Hardware we actually did.

Ace Hardware donated 2×4’s and screens and Red Cross volunteers built more than 600 sifters so that they can be distributed during our routes to the affected area.  Bob had heard of people finding valuables and was hopeful to do the same.  In our efforts to take care of first things first, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a mailbox key or the emotional boost a retrieved precious family heirloom would provide.

Recovering from a disaster takes time and the Red Cross will be working alongside partners in the community to deliver aid for months to come.

We were here before this disaster, during and will remain after, because that’s what we do.