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 redcross.org/donate.

First-time Disaster Volunteer Awarded Red Cross Challenge Coin for Exemplary Service

Diedre Cazneaux took it upon herself to run the kitchen at the Red Cross shelter in Siskiyou County.

By Judith Lester, Volunteer

Deidra Cazneaux’s deployment with the California Gold Country Region of the American Red Cross to the McKinney Fire was her first, but it wasn’t obvious.

The McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County displaced some 2,000 residents in late July. That’s when Cazneaux looked straight into the face of the disaster and went right to work.

“I just walked into the shelter kitchen and took over,” she said.

In her days at the shelter, Cazneaux always did her job with a smile, chatting with each evacuee and even advocating for them to ensure partner agencies who provided meals were offering nutritious options.

Shelter manager Bill Hart described Cazneaux, saying, “Deidra is an incredibly positive force in the face of controlled chaos.”

In recognition of her work at the shelter and her positive attitude while on the job, Cazneaux was presented with a Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services challenge coin.

“It’s always been in my heart to serve people,” Cazeneaux said, adding: “It’s an avenue for me to be who God wants me to be.”

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to explore the many opportunities to serve as a Red Cross volunteer.

McKinney Fire Evacuee Pledges to Volunteer for the Red Cross After Her Shelter Experience

Harlene Schwander lost her home in the McKinney Fire and regularly expressed her gratitude for the help she’s received since she evacuated.

By Judith Lester, Volunteer

Harlene Schwander hadn’t driven in years. But she drove herself to the American Red Cross Shelter at the Weed Community Center when her home was destroyed in Siskiyou County’s McKinney Fire.

Schwander was not shy about expressing her appreciation for people who gave her clothing, comfort and care while she was at our shelter.

She told her life story and the circumstances of her evacuation to several news reporters who visited the Weed shelter.

Schwander said she’s planning to volunteer for the American Red Cross after this experience.

“I am amazed at how much you help people mentally and physically— you just buoy people!”

“I am overwhelmed by your kindness,” Schwander said, adding that is why she is planning to join the Red Cross team.

The Red Cross always needs volunteers! Join us by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

Stronger Together: Thanks for the great meals, Salvation Army

Strong relationships with community partners are pivotal in caring for those who need assistance during a disaster. Volunteers from the Salvation Army in Redding have been serving up great meals to dozens of McKinney Fire evacuees. Pictured are Joy Wegner (top left), Teri Lewis (top right), Dorinda Cox (bottom left), and Steven Brooks (bottom right).

Thank you, Cowabunga!

A big thank you to Cowabunga Ice Cream Truck out of Valley Springs for delivering some frozen sweet treats to our shelter in San Andreas this week.

During a wildfire, when our shelter guests have lost so much, something as simple as ice cream can sure boost their spirits!

Cowabunga’s owners posted on Facebook: “A great night visiting evacuees and volunteers in San Andreas. Next stop Amador! Passing out free ice cream for those who have been displaced and those that need a smile on their faces. Fun night.”

Thank you for caring, Cowabunga!

For information on how you can support the American Red Cross during times of disaster, visit redcross.org/donate.

From Receiving Help to Pondering Helping Others: Evacuees Reflect on Days at Electra Fire Shelter

Michelle Symington and Shelley Royce evacuated from their homes in Amador County to escape the Electra Fire burning in Amador and Calaveras counties.

They are staying with their beloved dogs and cat on at the Red Cross shelter located at the Italian Picnic Grounds in Sutter Creek. There, they are provided food, snacks, beverages, health services and a bevy of other support.

“This is the first time we’ve had to evacuate due to a disaster. It’s a tough time for us,” Michelle said. “I’m worried about my husband’s health condition, but he’s being cared for here.

“We’d much rather be home watching ‘Downton Abbey’ but, on the bright side, I’ve met so many people here who have been so kind and helpful. I like to help people so have decided to check into becoming a Red Cross volunteer”.

If you would like to support Red Cross disaster relief efforts, visit redcross.org/donate and click on “Disaster Relief” in the dropdown menu.

Red Cross Month 2022: Reflections on a DAT call Eight Years Later

By Heath Wakelee, Volunteer

I’ll never forget the little guy looking up at me and with almost tears in his eyes, looking first to his father for approval and then back at me (after his father had nodded OK) to accept the Mickey Mouse doll that I had offered.

The little guy looked back at me, now with tears in his eyes and mouthed, “Thank you.” 

I almost lost it. Even today, that memory impacts me every time I think about that family and their kids.

It was a dark, cold and windy night in January. The single-family home was at the top of the property and it was still burning when our Disaster Action Team arrived.

The family (mother, father and two small children) were huddled on the wet grass in front of their home. A neighbor sat nearby with some paintings and photographs that he was trying to dry off and salvage after they were removed from the home.

That event took place over eight years ago. I hope those kids remain warm and safe.  I still think about them and wonder how they are doing. I think that I always will.

There was not much for us to do until the family started thinking about their recovery. The two kids were about three and five years old. Because of their age, they were not really able to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Their home was being destroyed.  The only thing that they really understood was that their toys were “gone.”

If you are interested in volunteering with your local Red Cross Disaster Action Team, click here.

You can also support the Red Cross by making a financial contribution or supporting our BASH virtual auction and event later this month.

Roseville Family Credits American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign After Safely Evacuating Blaze

By Peg Taylor, Red Cross Volunteer

Paula Metz and her family know firsthand the value of the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

Their Roseville, Calif. home caught fire in August, 2021.

When the fire happened, the family of five, including one person who uses a walker, had to evacuate. They were able to respond quickly and evacuate safely due to the knowledge and evacuation planning provided them by the Red Cross.

“The fire happened so quickly. Having the Red Cross training was helpful. I felt a sense of readiness,” said Metz.

“Before, I wouldn’t have thought about my cars, full of gasoline, as being accelerants. One of the first things we did when we got out was to get our cars out of the driveway and away from the house. I’m now more aware of these things.”

“A month prior to the fire, the Red Cross did a telephone interview to educate us on fire preparedness, how to prepare an evacuation plan, how to use fire extinguishers, how to make sure our smoke alarms were working,” said Metz. “They also sent a package of information for me to read.”

Home fires are the most frequent and deadliest disaster in the United States. Every 24 seconds, a fire department in the U.S. responds to a fire somewhere in the nation, according to the National Fire Protection Association. On average seven people die each day from these fires and 36 people are injured.

When a home fire happens, those inside often have less than two minutes to get out safely.

To reduce the high number of home fire fatalities and injuries, the Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign in 2014. The program educates people about home fire safety, helps them create customized evacuation plans, and provides installation of free smoke alarms in neighborhoods at high risk for home fires.

So far, more than 1,200 lives have been saved in the U.S. as a direct result of the Home Fire Campaign. Seven of those, including the Metz family, live in the California Gold Country Region of the Red Cross.

Paula and her family are thankful they took the time to participate virtually in the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. “I hope others check out Red Cross’ fire preparedness information,” she said.

For more information on the Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign, to donate to the Red Cross, or to join thousands of volunteers across the country who come to the aid of people impacted by home fires, visit redcross.org.

Introducing Gold Country’s New Senior Disaster Program Manager

By Michelle Hogue, Communications Volunteer

All the way from Ohio, welcome our new Senior Disaster Program Manager, Doug Fee!

Doug comes to us with a large family which includes his wife, six kids (three boys and three girls) and a grandson. This includes two sons currently serving in the United States military.

Before joining the California Gold Country Region, Doug served as Disaster Program Manager (DPM) for the Northern Ohio Region. Looking for the opportunity to expand his career, Doug could have moved into the Senior DPM position in Ohio, but he had come out to California to serve as the interim Senior DPM from August to October 2021 and discovered “this place has everything.”

He is currently based in Sacramento, serving the eight disaster territories of the California Gold Country Region.

Doug has had experience working in disasters of all kinds. He has participated in hurricane and wildfire responses, and nuclear power plant hazardous materials (HAZMAT) planning – with Ohio having multiple nuclear power plants. With that, he has been a part of detailed planning in many areas of disaster response.

When asked what his favorite job responsibility is, without hesitation Doug said, “Mobilizing volunteers” and “the workforce engagement function.” The ability to engage and support volunteers is both rewarding and enjoyable for him. He is passionate about training DPMs to better engage, support and keep volunteers.

We look forward to getting to know, working with, and learning from Doug!

Have a question for Doug? You can reach him at doug.fee@redcross.org.

Wildfire Evacuee Thanks Red Cross Volunteers: ‘U Have No Idea’

By Stephanie Gaito, Volunteer

On Monday night, August 17, Margaret Grant received an after-hours call from her insurance agent. Evacuation warnings had been issued for the North Complex fires near Susanville, but she was waiting for more information.

Once the phone rang, Grant knew the call from her agent must be urgent, and she was correct. The agent urged her to immediately evacuate the home she shared with her fiancé and parents. Their property was in danger as the fire rapidly headed in their direction.

Grant and her fiancé, Rick Duckworth, moved six years ago to rural Susanville from Southern California to help her parents care for their family home and surrounding property. That Monday when they were evacuated, her family’s safety was the main concern. As each family member headed to a safe destination, her worries were put to rest.

“As long as my parents are safe with my brothers, Rick and I would have slept in our car and done whatever we needed to do,” Grant said.

Grant and Duckworth used their own resources to cover the expense of staying two nights at the Diamond Mountain Casino in Susanville. They didn’t want to bother anyone or use resources for others in need.

“At that point, it has been over two days, and we had pretty much run out of funds” she explained. “We didn’t know what we were going to do. Later that day, a lady called and asked if we had eaten, and at that point we hadn’t,” she explained through tears. “She called and took care of our food and she has called and checked on us every single day since.”

The woman who called Grant was a Red Cross volunteer, and she Textmade sure to take care of the family’s needs. The Red Cross assisted by covering additional nights at the hotel and by providing meal tickets and vouchers to Grant and her fiancé so their stay was as safe and hassle free as possible.

Grant and her family had made considerable efforts to protect their home from wildfire, including maintenance of defensible space and adding fire suppression tanks to the property. When asked if there was anything she would recommend to those looking to protect their homes, maintaining well equipment was high on her list. She said to make sure all equipment has been serviced and maintained to ensure sufficient water pressure, as this could save your home.

“I’m just grateful for the firefighters up here. Between the Red Cross and the firefighters, we would have lost our house if it wasn’t for them.”

If you would like to support Red Cross disaster relief efforts, visit redcross.org.