30 Days Later – The California Wildfires Response

Immediate Collaboration

The ongoing drought across California has given way to another historic wildfire season. Beginning September 9, 2015, two of the most destructive wildfires in state history flared throughout northern California. The Valley Fire is now the third most destructive fire in state history and the Butte Fire the seventh most destructive blaze. Combined, these fires burned more than 150,000 square acres and destroyed more than 1,700 homes, displacing thousands of families.

As the fires destroyed buildings, neighbors instantly came together to help one another showing amazing generosity and resilience. Local Red Cross chapters, community organizations and government agencies sprang into action as well, mobilizing volunteers to offer shelter, food, water, basic health services, and mental health services for thousands of people in the path of the wildfires.

As evacuation orders were lifted, Red Cross volunteers worked alongside community members to distribute food, and relief supplies to impacted neighborhoods and support people as they returned to their properties with health and mental health services.

California Wildfires Response by the Numbers:

  • over 120,000 meals and snacks served by Salvation Army, Southern Baptist, community groups, local restaurants and the Red Cross
  • over 58,000 relief items water, snacks, hot meals, non-perishable meals, and clean-up items such as work gloves, buckets, trash bags, sifters, and dust masks
  • over 11,000 overnight stays in 12 community or Red Cross shelters
  • over 9,900 health and mental health contacts
  • over 1,500 cases opened by Red Cross caseworkers to provide individualized recovery support.

Disasters are often complex, with complex needs – and no single agency can meet every need on its own; it takes collaboration and partnership. The reality is that it takes the talents and resources of many agencies and organizations working together to provide necessary services after a major disaster.

The Red Cross is one of many agencies coming together to ensure that basic needs are met, to work on the long-term recovery of entire communities, and to help them be prepared for and more resilient in the face of future wildfires. During the California Wildfires response, the Red Cross collaborated with several partner agencies, including several Lions Clubs, several Sevenths Day Adventists communities, Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians, Twin Pine Casino, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Salvation Army, Jackson Rancheria, Tzu Chi, St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities, Children’s Disaster Services, Samaritan’s Purse, Team Rubicon, Rotary Clubs, Community Churches, Boy Scouts of America, Center of Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, local and state Emergency Operation Centers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and many more.

It Takes the Whole Community to Make a Community Whole
To help all households in fire-impacted communities move forward, the Red Cross is working together with local Long-Term Recovery Groups in Lake and Calaveras Counties respectively, which are coalitions of community and grassroots organizations who will develop and execute long-term plans for a community’s recovery.

The Red Cross currently has highly trained caseworkers meeting one-on-one with each family affected by the wildfires to understand each unique situation and help them on the road to recovery with the information, assistance, and access to resources they need to put that plan into action. They are helping people with family reunification information, funeral assistance, emergency needs and recovery planning.

Caseworkers are also skilled in directing people to other agencies that provide specialized services not provided by the Red Cross.  Much of Red Cross recovery work focuses on assisting the most vulnerable people who need extra help getting back on their feet, are ineligible for government assistance, or don’t have anywhere else to turn for help.

The Red Cross also has trained disaster mental health professionals available to help adults and children cope with the emotional impact of a disaster and its aftermath.  It’s common for people to suffer from high stress, anxiety, depression and other trauma related illnesses during and after a disaster. Red Cross Disaster Mental Health workers assess clients’ needs, provide individual psychological triage, crisis intervention and condolence support, and make appropriate community referrals for longer term support.

Persons affected by the wildfires who are in need of assistance are encouraged to connect with a Red Cross caseworker by calling 855-255-2490.

Preparing for Secondary Impacts
The wildfires left vast expanses of terrain and hillsides bare and when heavy rains arrive this winter, experts predict that flooding and mudslides are not far behind.  Recognizing that these secondary impacts represent a serious threat, the Red Cross will be collaborating with local communities to increase personal preparedness and strengthening the existing volunteer corps to ensure the community is ready to respond if and when another disaster strikes.

The Red Cross provides potentially life-saving preparedness apps that are absolutely free. There are apps for first aid, tornadoes, hurricanes, flood, wildfire, and earthquake that can be programmed to give an audible warning should an event be imminent. They are filled with important information on what to do before, during, and after an event, and provide directions to Red Cross shelters. Recently, the Red Cross came out with an Emergency app that combines in one place many of the features of the individual apps described above. All of these apps are free of charge. They can be found and downloaded by going to your particular app store and searching “Red Cross” or from the Red Cross website at www.redcross.org.

No matter what the disaster is, the American Red Cross is hard at work at some phase of the Disaster Cycle and often on multiple phases at the same time. The Red Cross is here today to serve those who have lost so much, and it will be ready to serve when a future disaster strikes again.

A Picture Is Worth 1000 words – check out the images captured during the Butte Fire Response – Butte Fire Pictures

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Licensed Mental Health Workers are Onsite to Provide Comfort

Written by Jan Mendoza, Volunteer Contributor

Disasters are typically unexpected, sudden and overwhelming and for many people they can take an emotional toll. It’s common for people to suffer from high stress, anxiety, depression and other trauma related illnesses.

Many do not know that immediately after a disaster strikes a community the American Red Cross deploys highly skilled professionals to shelters and assistance centers to provide individual psychological triage, community mental health surveillance, psychological first aid, psychoeducation, community resilience training, advocacy, crisis intervention and condolence support.

georgia tiessen- mental healthGeorgia Tiessen, a Red Cross volunteer with a Masters in Social Work has been diligently helping victims of the Butte fire get the vital help and resources they need to cope in the days and months ahead.

“These people hold it together as long as they can to get their immediate needs met, but then it hits them,” said Tiessen. “We want to make sure that they are not left dealing with these feelings on their own and get the help and support they need for the long term.”

Delores lost her home and barely got out with her life escaping from the Butte Fire on September 9. She was waiting outside of the Red Cross Assistance Center in San Andreas visibly upset as her husband was signing up for Red Cross Services.

“I have anxiety issues and I just couldn’t go in with him; I needed to separate myself”, she said. “We lost everything and have to start over.” Mental Health Volunteer Georgia Tiessen not only made sure Delores got her hot lunch as she waited, Georgia counseled her, gave big hugs and the resources Delores will need to help her overcome.

Compassionate mental health care is just one face of recovery when disaster strikes and for Delores that face was Georgia.

There are many ways people can volunteer with the Red Cross, including serving as a disaster mental health worker like Georgia Tiessen. Join the team today!

American Red Cross Establishes Public Information Line in Response to the Butte Fire

ButteFire-ABC10Jackson, CA – Saturday, September 12, 2015 – The American Red Cross has established a public information line for inquiries from the public regarding Red Cross services during the Butte Fire.

The number to call is: (925)588-6678. The phone number is being staffed by a Red Cross volunteer. If you get a busy signal, we ask for your patience and to call back.

The three emergency evacuation shelters established by the Red Cross are located at:

Calaveras County

  • Good Samaritan Church, 4684 Baldwin St, Valley Springs
  • Jenny Lynn Veterans Hall, 189 Pine Street, Valley Springs

Amador County

  • Jackson Rancheria Hotel and Resort – 12222 New York Ranch Rd, Jackson

IN-KIND DONATIONS

We appreciate the good intentions of people who want to donate items, but financial donations are the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most.

The Red Cross isn’t equipped to handle a large influx of donations such as household items, clothing or food that may or may not be useful to victims as it takes time and money to store, sort and distribute donated items. If community members still like to donate goods, we recommend they contact other organizations in their community and inquire if they are accepting donations.  

“Financial donations allow us to be flexible in the help we deliver and ensure that we can provide what disaster victims need most,” said Lilly Wyatt, Director of Regional Communications with the American Red Cross Gold Country Region. “Donating is simple, just call 1-800-Red Cross or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.”

All Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people.

The Heat is On! (Again) – Safety Reminders

With a heat wave upon us, Red Cross has Tips to keep safe during extreme heat

Since summer’s clearly sticking around for the time being, this is a good time to refresh your memory of what you should do in a heat wave. The American Red Cross has some simple steps you can take to keep you and your kids safe.

icedogDuring a Heat Wave:

  • Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat
  • Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat

heat and sportsSports Safety
The return to school means many student athletes will be outside for practice. But during a heat wave, athletes should avoid workouts and exercise during the hottest times of the day—these should be scheduled for early in the day or later in the evening. Other ways to stay safe include:

  • Get acclimated to the heat by reducing the intensity of your workouts or exercise until you are more accustomed to the heat
  • Take frequent, longer breaks. Stop about every 20 minutes for fluids and try to stay in the shade
  • Those in charge of student practices should reduce the amount of heavy equipment athletes wear in extremely hot weather
  • Dress athletes in net-type jerseys or light-weight, light-colored cotton tee shirts and shorts
  • Know the signs of heat-related emergencies and monitor athletes closely
  • Athletes should inform those in charge if they are not feeling well

FIRST AID APP Could you tell if someone were suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke? Would you know how to respond? The American Red Cross First Aid App puts that information at your fingertips, helping you prepare and respond to heat emergencies and other events. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the free First Aid App gives you instant access to the information you need to know to handle the most common first aid emergencies. It also features videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice. Download the app from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android or go to http://www.redcross.org/mobileapps.

Learn how to treat heat-related and other emergencies by taking First Aid and CPR/AED training online or in person. Go to http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class for information and to register.

Download the Red Cross Heat Wave Safety Checklist at http://rdcrss.org/1NpU79T 

What to Do If a Wildfire Threatens

Wildfires-Header-jpgWildfire season has been a year-round threat in California due to the extreme four-year drought. According to the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC), almost 20 large fires are burning now and more than 100 new fires have been reported.

The American Red Cross is helping people impacted by several fires burning in the Golden State and offers safety tips on how to better protect yourself and your loved ones from a wildfire.

Currently, the Gold Country region alone has been operating two shelters in Trinity County due to the Mad River Complex Fires and the Fork Complex Fires.

WILDFIRE SAFETY

  • Learn about wildfire risks in your area or the region where you are planning to vacation.
  • Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to learn more about wildfires and set up alerts.
  • Talk with members of your household about wildfires – how to prevent them and what to do if one occurs.
  • Select a place for family members to meet outside your neighborhood in case you cannot get home or need to evacuate.
  • Identify someone who is out of the area to contact if local phone lines are not working.
  • Post emergency numbers by every phone, or enter them into your cell phones.
  • Make a plan and practice it. Plan and practice two ways out of your neighborhood or vacation area in case your primary route is blocked.
  • Firewood should be stacked at least 30 feet uphill from your home or camping spot. Clear combustible material within 20 ft. of the stack. Fire tends to travel uphill, so keep highly combustible firewood and other materials above your home or vacation area.

IF A WILDFIRE THREATENS

  • Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
  • Listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.
  • Always back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Confine pets to one room or spot so that you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.
  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
  • Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car.
  • When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves.

DOWNLOAD EMERGENCY APP

The free Emergency App is highly customizable and informative with alerts, vital emergency information and a “Family Safe” feature to notify loved ones that an alert has been issued in their area and check to see if they are safe. Find it in your app store by searching for American Red Cross.

HOW TO HELP

Become a volunteer or make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your donations can help provide shelter for someone who has had to leave their home and food and water for them to eat. Help people affected by disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. To donate, people can visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Red Cross Responds to Multiple Wildfires Throughout Northern California

A large flare-up from the Wragg Fire is seen in a photograph taken in rural Solano County, California on July 28, 2015. (Photo credit: Matthew Keys)
A large flare-up from the Wragg Fire is seen in a photograph taken in rural Solano County, California on July 28, 2015. (Photo credit: Matthew Keys)

SACRAMENTO, CA (July 31, 2015) The American Red Cross Gold Country Region has spent the last several days responding to multiple wildfires throughout Northern California.  Thankfully, we’re ready to respond at a moment’s notice and we are prepared for what could be one of the worst wildfire seasons  that California has experienced.

“We know this is just a sneak peek into how bad the fires could be this season” said Lilly Wyatt, American Red Cross Communications Director. “With the extreme drought we’ve been experiencing for four years, we know the threat is there and we are ready to respond and assist our community.”

WRAGG FIRE
The Wragg Fire, which began on Wednesday, July 22, forced multiple evacuations around Solano and Yolo Counties. The Red Cross set up an evacuation center at the Winters Community Center, 201 Railroad Ave, Winters, CA, where evacuated residents can received lodging, meals, comfort and information. We accommodated five residents overnight, but had more than 20 fluctuating throughout the day as residents come and go.

KYBURZ FIRE
Thursday July 23, more Red Cross volunteers were called into action to set up an evacuation center at the Pollock Pines-Camino Community Center, 2675 Sanders Drive, Pollock Pines, CA. for resident impacted by the Kybrurz Fire, which closed both directions of Highway 50. We

LOWELL FIRE
The Lowell Fire at the Nevada/Placer county lines exploded just as the Kyburz Fire was easing on Saturday, July 25 around 3pm. We opened a shelter in Grass Valley to support Nevada Country residents.  Eleven residents stayed at the shelter overnight and another 15 persons staying in the parking lot of the High School in camper’s cars and motorhomes.  Red Cross provided breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to 25 people while the shelter was opened.

SWEDE’S FLAT FIRE
​In the morning of Wednesday, July 29 another wild land fire erupted, this time in Butte County. Local government requested the Red Cross to set up an Evacuation Center and we were able to have it available within a couple of hours at the Church of the Nazarene in Oroville CA. The evacuation center quickly transitioned into a full shelter to house seven individuals overnight.

CHINA, HAPPY AND MALLARD FIRES
Three different blazes sparked in Shasta County the evening of July 29. Although small in acreage they were threatening multiple homes and the Red Cross established a shelter at Anderson High School.

BIG CREEK FIRE
Also on July 29 a vegetation fire in the Groveland Area of Tuolumne County began burning heavy timber. The fire spread quickly and 65 homes were evacuated. At 8:00pm, Red Cross staff and volunteers established the evacuation center at Groveland Community Hall to have it ready for those who needed a comfortable place to rest.

In 2014, we responded to dozens of wildfires, more than ever before and 2015 is shaping up to be as bad as last year,” said Wyatt. “From July 1 to the end of September we had at least one shelter open except for just 18 hours.”

BE PREPARED
The Red Cross urges communities throughout California to get prepared for what will likely be a long and severe wildfire season. The Red Cross urges residents to follow all evacuation orders from local enforcement and be prepared for disasters like wildfires. All families should have an emergency game plan for disasters large and small. Make sure your home has an emergency kit ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Click here to learn more about preparing for and responding to wildfires.

HOW TO HELP
Become a volunteer or make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your donations can help provide shelter for someone who has had to leave their home and food and water for them to eat. Help people affected by disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. To donate, people can visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Courtesy of Wayne Freedman @WayneFreedman
Courtesy of Wayne Freedman @WayneFreedman