‘It’s all about perspective’

By Michelle Hogue, Volunteer

Bob Dunham and Patty Girdner evacuated from Yreka and got acquainted through their stay at the Red Cross shelter in Weed.  Neither had been in a situation of needing to shelter away from home previously, so they had no idea what to expect when they got there.

Bob and Patty both said they have been “blessed and amazed” by the care they have gotten from the Red Cross volunteers. 

Bob, who has lived in Siskiyou County for 44 years, was not in an area of town that was under a mandatory evacuation, but the unpredictability of the situation and his health concerns affected by the smoke brought him to the shelter.

While he was at the shelter, Bob’s dog, Scooter, was being cared for at the Rescue Ranch dog shelter. His growing up as a military dependent and going through earthquake drills when he was a kid in Japan and Hawaii taught him to be prepared always to “go on a moment’s notice.”

Patty was in a similar situation as Bob.  She said she would love to be a volunteer when she gets back on her feet, health-wise.  Patty said she is very grateful for the support she has received at the Red Cross shelter.

“I’ve never seen the over-abundance of giving like this. I want to volunteer and give back.” 

Both Patty and Bob repeatedly expressed how much they appreciated having the shelter available. Both could often be seen trying to help out in some way around the shelter.

Bob said, “I’m happy for what little I’ve been able to do around the shelter.”

“We’re all in the same boat.  Everybody has come together,” said Patty. “We are all helping each other.”

As Bob and Patty talk about their evacuation experiences, they remain hopeful and eager to get back to their homes. They both noted, “It’s all about perspective,” that “choosing to live in Siskiyou County means choosing to live with the possibility of wildfire.”

Bob said, “Everyone encounters disasters. Each area has its own kind of potential disaster. How you get through it is with the relief from the Red Cross and other organizations – the people showing up just to make donations was unbelievable.  To be hands on with the Red Cross…you guys are wonderful. 

“It’s the heart and empathy that makes people want to be Red Cross volunteers and do the amazing things you’re doing here.”

You can support Red Cross disaster relief efforts by making a financial donation at redcross.org/donate.

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.

Red Cross Comes to the Aid of One Family After Two Home Fires

Story by John Blomster/Photo by Matthew Foor

Leroy Dennis and his daughter stand outside their Oroville motor home which sustained severe damage after an accidental fire.

Leroy Dennis thought the worst was behind him after his family recovered from a devastating fire that left his Butte County home in ashes.

Sadly, he was wrong.

Shortly after relocating his wife and two children to Oroville, Calif., a freak motor home accident nearly identical to the first sparked a blaze that nearly destroyed their new home and displaced the family a second time.

In each case, the American Red Cross provided a critical safety net by putting the family up in hotels and providing vouchers for food. The organization’s support helped put them in the position to rebuild their lives.

“Both times, the Red Cross has been a really great help, not just for me, but for other folks in the community as well,” Dennis said.

In 2019, the Dennises were living on a farm in Bangor, Calif., among a loose collection of trailers scattered about the property. Leroy owned a motor home, and one day he commissioned a mechanic to perform some routine maintenance on it.

The vehicle backfired, sending flames across the dry ground and instantly igniting the buildings. The residents barely had time to react, and in a year in which the water table was particularly low, they could barely muster a defense.

“Everything caught on fire so fast, and we just didn’t have any water to put it out,” Dennis said.

Having lost everything and with nowhere to go, the family connected with the Red Cross, which lined up lodging and food services. Each month while they recovered, the family was able to visit the Salvation Army and local churches to pick up packages of food.

Fast forward to December 2020. The Dennises had put the pieces back together, and again, Leroy was having motor home trouble.

He turned to an acquaintance in the neighborhood for help.

As the amateur mechanic popped the hood, Leroy headed back to his house before a commotion turned him around. He emerged to find the motor home ablaze, and the flames quickly spread to his walls and roof. Residents tried in vain to fight the fire with an extinguisher and hose.

As it turned out, the mechanic had been using a type of flammable starter fluid that ignited unexpectedly. By the time the fire department extinguished the blaze, Leroy’s house had been damaged so badly that it would be uninhabitable for months.

Once again, the family was without a roof over their heads. Once again, the Red Cross helped find them one.

In a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded even the simplest issues, losing one’s home is certainly up there with the worst of them.

It is a testament to the family’s resilience that they have been able to bounce from these two major tragedies, and today they are continuing to recover, restore and rebuild their lives together.

“It was just so crazy that both of the fires happened the way they did,” Dennis said, “I’m grateful to the Red Cross for the help they gave us.”

For information on how you can prepare for home fires, visit RedCross.org.

Home Fire Campaign Celebrates 715 Lives Saved; How You Can Help!

The American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is celebrating a milestone this week with the 715th life saved as a result of free smoke alarms being installed in homes around the country.

In all, we’ve installed more than 2 million smoke alarms nationwide since 2014 in hopes of reducing home fire deaths and serious injury by 25%.

This year in the Gold Country Region, our goal is to install 4,000 free smoke alarms — 1,100 of them on April 25 as part of our national Sound the Alarm event!

When a fire starts in the home, you have less than two minutes to escape safe. Smoke alarms can make all the difference. But we can’t do it alone! Sign up to join a team of installers by going to soundthealarm.org.

Seniors Take Charge in their Community Installing Smoke Alarms

It’s about Time…

Two minutes, to be exact.

In this agonizingly short timeframe, a family can win or lose its fight to escape a home fire and the lethal smoke created by that fire.   One device can even the odds for a family:  tested, working smoke alarms.

Our golden age community members understand this; they know there’s never any time to waste so these seniors didn’t.

Partnering with the American Red Cross, they took matters into their own hands.  They knocked on doors, hauled ladders, drilled into walls, mounted alarms, replaced dead batteries, shared fire prevention tips, and documented their results in a smoke alarm installation campaign. In just four-days they saw 20% of their neighborhood homes equipped with brand new 10-year-battery smoke alarms.  The group visited more than 100 homes installing 225 alarms.

They were the disaster volunteers of Mobile County Club in Rancho Cordova who carried out the project with the support of their management and Home Owners Association.

Nothing stopped them, not even temperatures which topped 100 degrees.  Red Cross staff and volunteers, in some cases half the age of their clients, did their best to keep up.  “They set a pace we haven’t seen before,” said Myisha Aban, Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Manager. “These people are so resilient and delightful. I wish my grandmother lived here.”

Equally important, residents were given safety literature emphasizing the all-imperative escape plan, ensuring that a two-minute evacuation strategy would not fail due to blocked or inaccessible exits or pathways to safety unknown to anyone in the household.

Spearheading the charge was Antonio Martinez, HOA Treasurer and the tireless promoter of disaster preparedness for his community of mobile homes.  Tony initiated this project when he called the Red Cross inquiring for free vests.  Joining Tony were residents Bob Schroeder, Lyle Fellows, Bill Johnston, Darrill Sturgeon, Jorge (Chiqui) Nievies, Linda Martinez, Deborah Fieldson, and Irene Ferraro.

The group proved itself not only handy but tireless.  Keeping up with them (or trying to) were Veteran Red Cross volunteer Marcus Heningburg who oversaw Operations along with David Hansen, Todd and Terry Sanford, Isadora Marks, Reena Singh, and Patricia Davis, all of the American Red Cross.

Start to finish, the project was encouraged by Property Manager Leslie Gomez and Office Assistant Kelly Boughton; their support and hospitality contributed significantly to the event’s success.

The alarms and batteries were provided free of charge as benefits of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide movement to cut by 25% and over a five-year period deaths from home fires.

Coast-to-coast, the fire service has supported the campaign and did so here.  On the first day, a ladder company from Sacramento Metropolitan Fire walked with volunteers and encouraged neighbors to join the movement at Mobile Country Club.

…because Tony and his friends aren’t done.

They’ve got more of that Park to cover.  And they will.

Given several factors, the Red Cross encourages all mobile home parks and their managements to consider a Home Fire Campaign for smoke alarm installation and community disaster education. For more information or to schedule installations visit our website: redcross.org/GoldCountry and click on Home Fire Campaign.

Trailhead Fire Update: Two Evacuation Shelters available for Trailhead Fire evacuees

Auburn, Calif., June 30, 2016 — The American Red Cross in partnership with El Dorado and Placer counties Office of Emergency Services have established two evacuation shelters for residents who have been affected by the growing Trailhead Fire.

Placer County Evacuation Center:

Gold Country Fair Grounds – Sierra Building

1273 High St, Auburn, CA 95603

There are two shelters available to provide a secure place to stay for both evacuees and their pets.

The shelters are separated due to the health and safety of our shelter guests. Red Cross is providing shelter, food, snacks, water and emotional support.

El Dorado County Evacuation Center:

Golden Sierra High School

5101 Garden Valley Road, Garden Valley, CA

This shelter is being staffed by Red Cross volunteers and managed by the El Dorado County Health and Human Services. The County is also providing a small animal pet shelter at this location.  All large animals need to be transported to 1100 Cold Springs Road, where El Dorado County Animal Services has arranged for accommodations.

The Red Cross is not providing hotel vouchers for evacuated residents, however, we’re encouraging everyone to find comfort at one of our shelters where they can find a safe place to lay down, blankets, food, water and snacks.

Disasters like this create more needs than any one organization can meet. The Red Cross works closely with government and community partners to coordinate efforts.

A public meeting will be held tonight.  Fire staff will give an informational update and answer questions from the public.  American Red Cross will be present as well.

Trailhead Fire Public Meeting:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

7:00pm

Golden Sierra High School

5101 Garden Valley Road, Garden Valley

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.

 The Gold Country Region serves a twenty-four county territory including Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba counties.

 For more information, please visit redcross.org/GoldCountry or cruzrojaamericana.org. Stay up to date by following us on Twitter (@RCSierraDelta | @RedCrossNECal) or join the conversation on Facebook’s Sierra-Delta Chapter Page or Northeastern California Page.

Test smoke alarms when turning clocks ahead for Daylight Saving

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Red Cross Home Fire Campaign Saves Dozens of Lives;
Installs Quarter of a Million Smoke Alarms Across U.S.

Woodland, CA Wednesday, March 9, 2016 — The American Red Cross and thousands of Home Fire Campaign partners have helped save at least 77 lives and installed more than a quarter of a million smoke alarms in homes all across the country since the campaign launched in October of 2014.

Here in the Gold Country Region, Red Cross workers and partners have canvased 4,792 homes, Installed 2,029 smoke detectors and helped families create 1,314 fire escape plans. This weekend, we will canvass homes in Woodland and Roseville.

“Every day seven people die in a home fire somewhere in the United States. Working with our partners, we are changing that by making people safer with each new smoke alarm we install,” said Robin Friedman Regional Disaster Officer. “The campaign has already helped to save the lives of dozens of people and we know that number will only grow as more alarms are installed and more people take action to prevent home fires.”

Home Fire Campaign supporters and partners here in the Gold Country Region include the following, Pacific Gas and Electric, Oracle, ServPro as well as local and city fire departments.

TURN AND TEST

Daylight Saving Time occurs at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, March 13, and the Red Cross reminds everyone to TURN AND TEST – turn their clocks ahead one hour and test their smoke alarms. If someone’s home is lacking smoke alarms, residents should install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. The alarms should be tested every month and the batteries replaced at least once a year, or according to the alarm manufacturer’s instructions.

Every household should develop a fire escape plan and practice it several times a year and at different times of the day. The plan should include two ways to get out of every room and a place to meet outside. Consider escape ladders for sleeping areas or homes with two stories or more.

People can visit redcross.org/GoldCountry to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved ones from fire or learn about the location of local smoke alarm installation events. They can also help by volunteering their time or making a donation today to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Download your own copies of:

Check out the Home Fire Campaign Video from the large canvassing event in December.’

Home Fire Campaign – Reaching Secluded Areas

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This past Saturday, February 6, 2016, Red Cross volunteers gathered around to knock on doors and help save lives at the Columbia Sky Mobile Home Park in Tuolumne County.

Together with the Tuolumne Fire Department about a dozen volunteers met on the brisk Saturday morning to participate in the first Home Fire Campaign canvassing event in that county.

The day could not have been better, even the deer were out to greet the volunteers and the Columbia mobile home park residents were friendly and receptive.

“All of the volunteers really enjoyed visiting with the seniors,” said Debbie Calcotte, Disaster Program Manager with the American Red Cross Gold Country Region.

In all, volunteers visited 39 homes and installed 51 smoke alarms.

“This was a great kick-off canvassing event for Tuolumne County,” said Lilly Wyatt, Communications Director. “But, we would not have been able to get in to talk to so many individuals and families if it wasn’t for the partnership and collaboration of the Tuolumne Fire Department.”

Anyone is encouraged to sign up and volunteer for future canvassing events across the 24-county Gold Country region of the American Red Cross. Training is provided.

“Today’s event was encouraging,” added JoLynn Miller, Red Cross volunteer. “We heard stories from the people we were visiting on how they actually support the Red Cross with donations and how grateful they were to the teams for being there today.”

The young fire cadets we’re also thrilled to talk to the community about how important fire safety was and help them with fire escape plans and routes.

Data shows that the 4% of homes without smoke alarms represent nearly 40% of the home fires, and that working smoke alarms can double someone’s chance of surviving a fire. That’s why, the American Red Cross is continuing the multi-year Home Fire Campaign, which aims to reduce home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent by the end of 2019.

  •  Installation teams have three goals:
    • Testing and installing smoke alarms and/or replacing batteries (as needed);
    • Educating the resident on fire safety and safety from other types of locally relevant disasters; and
    • Documenting installation information, including the services provided.

The Red Cross also is asking every household in America to join us in taking the two simple steps that can save lives: checking their existing smoke alarms and practicing fire drills at home.

We are in Sonora next Saturday.

Check our our Home Fire Campaign Album on Flickr with images from some of the canvassing events we’ve participated in. 🙂

 

Water Your Christmas Tree Every Day!

Here’s an important fire safety tip from Tori in Twain Harte, CA:

Water your Christmas tree every day! A dry tree is dangerous because it can catch on fire easily.
Check out more important tips on the Red Cross website:
Seven Fire Safety Tips for Holiday Decorating and Entertaining.

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