San Diego-based Red Cross logistics volunteer Eddie Gilbert quite literally “hiked” onto a Disaster Relief Operation deployment this past summer during the Washington Wildfires.
Eddie was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a rigorous 2,650-mile trek from Mexico to Canada, through California, Oregon and Washington. He left on March 15 and was 158 days and 2,462 miles into his journey when he received a call from the Red Cross to assist with the devastating fires in Wenatchee, WA. He heard about the trail north being closed and learned four firefighters had lost their lives. Several of his fellow hikers were making plans to get home. Eddie himself had mixed feelings, but he veered 100 miles east to volunteer at the Wenatchee office to work as a Red Cross disaster relief volunteer in logistics.
On Thursday, August 20, 2015 he arrived on the job at 5:00 p.m. “By 7:00 p.m. I was loading and later unloading an Emergency Response Vehicle with cots, blankets and comfort kits at two shelters near Baxter and late into the night at Lake Chalen,” said Gilbert. A retired police officer with nearly a decade of Red Cross experience, he was also reassigned to mentor other logistics volunteers in the Spokane area for a few days.
Over the course of the Washington wildfire response, the American Red Cross opened over a dozen shelters and provided hundreds of overnight shelter stays and visits. More than 100 Red Cross workers provided more than 12,000 meals and snacks, including meals for U.S. military helping fight the fires. The Red Cross distributed hundreds of relief supplies and helped almost 400 people with health services, such as replacing prescriptions and lost eyeglasses. When residents were able to go home, Red Cross caseworkers met with them to provide assistance and access to other help as they began the long recovery process.
As for Eddie, he hit the hiking trail again on September 3, 2015, after completing a two-week commitment to the Red Cross and those affected by the fires. Eddie completed the full hike on September 7, 2015!