Red Cross worker, Jordan Scott, does some coloring with 8 year old April Vazquez, at the Red Cross shelter in Kelseyville, CA. April and her family evacuated their home due to the ongoing Valley Fire burning in Lake County
One week. It’s a long time to be away from home. Typically there’s an element of planning involved for those heading out of town for a stretch like that. Plenty of time and thought goes into what to pack, where to stay, and when you will decide to return to the home which, under normal circumstances, you’re fairly certain will still be there when you get back.
For residents of California communities threatened by ongoing wildfires [Valley Fire (Lake/Napa Counties), Butte Fire (Amador/Calaveras Counties), and Rough Fire (Fresno County)], time to plan was a luxury many didn’t have. Fast-moving flames have forced thousands from their homes at a moments notice, leaving just enough time to gather their loved ones and maybe a bare minimum of personal items.
One week since the largest fires have started, thousands remain in an anxious state of uncertainty at Red Cross shelters awaiting word on when they may be able to return home and what they might find when they arrive.
“As the days go on the frustration grows, and we definitely understand that,” said Jordan Scott, one of more than 250 Red Cross workers providing relief for evacuated residents. “The uncertainty is scary and it takes an emotional toll on everyone. While we know these shelters are no substitute for a home, everyone is working hard to provide a safe environment with basic comforts to help folks through such a tough time.”
At the Napa Valley Fairgrounds in Calistoga, evacuees have found refuge in the expansive facilities where Red Cross workers are serving hundreds of meals each day, providing much-needed emotional support, and ensuring all residents have access to available services and resources. And though the capacity to accept, store, and distribute material donations is limited, Red Cross workers and local organizations are working together to manage thousands of donated goods, the result of the generous outpouring of community support.
Nearly 150 miles to the southeast, near the Butte Fire in the small town of Jackson, California, the popular Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort has switched gears, converting several areas of the hotel to an emergency shelter for evacuated residents. As Bill Thornton, Rancheria CFO says, “This is our community. We take care of each other.”
That same sentiment is shared by the many Red Crossers working throughout the affected communities.
“The volunteers are not strangers here,” says Scott. “This is their community where they live, work, and play. They are providing for their friends and neighbors. Despite the fact that they are also personally affected by these tragedies, they are selflessly placing the needs of others ahead of their own as a means of giving back. It’s both heartwarming and inspiring.”
As of Thursday, Red Cross workers have provided the following for those impacted by California wildfires:
- Served 25,000 meals and snacks
- Supported 4,200 overnight stays in shelters
- Provided more than 1,800 health and mental health contacts
As firefighters continue their tireless efforts to contain these devastating blazes, these workers will remain to provide whatever assistance is necessary. From food to blankets, prescriptions to clothing, to hugs and shoulders to cry on, and everything in between, the Red Cross is here for our communities in need.
Says Scott, “When the fires are out, the realization of what is needed will just be getting started. It will be a long road to recovery, but I’m proud to say that the Red Cross will be here to help all along the way.”