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A ‘Terrifying’ Road to Red Cross Shelter After Yarnell Hill Fire

Red Cross volunteer inside shelter
We’re alive. And regardless of the home being there or not, if I can help anybody out in any way, that’s my main goal.

WICKENBURG (July 23, 2013) – Karen Patterson stayed at an American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter shelter at Wickenburg High School this month with her husband, James Bonde, and her three children after the Yarnell Hill Fire nearly burned their home. The painful memories are still fresh.

“First, it was black smoke, and then a black, red glow,” Bonde said. “I was being the optimist – that it wasn’t going to come.” Patterson had time to pull brush away from their house, as they watched the wildfire about two miles west of them. However, the blaze changed direction, heading their way.

“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever had to deal with,” Patterson said. “It was terrifying.”

With Ethan, 11, Alison, 6, and Ayla, 3, Patterson and Bonde fled with ash so thick and heat so intense, they weren’t sure they would make it. “I closed my eyes and prayed,” Patterson said.

Bonde figured their house was gone. Turns out, it wasn’t touched. “We’re alive,” Patterson said. “And regardless of the home being there or not, if I can help anybody out in any way, that’s my main goal.”

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. It’s a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. The Grand Canyon Chapter, established in 1916, re-chartered in 1999 and expanded in 2003, ranks as the fifth-largest chapter nationally, serving the more than 5.1 million people in Apache, Coconino, Gila, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma counties. For more information on the Grand Canyon Chapter, please visit, like us on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter under the handle @RedCrossGCC.