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Fire Victims Find Relief with the Red Cross

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“The things I was worried about—I don’t have to worry about. It really made the process a lot easier.” – Rick, Red Cross shelter resident.

After an extremely busy week responding to 15 home fires, a winter storm related disaster and operating a shelter for residents affected by power outages in Cave Junction, the Red Cross in Oregon and Southwest Washington is helping more than 60 people displaced from their homes by an apartment fire. On the afternoon of January 4, 2017, a three-alarm fire broke out at the historic Hotel Alder, located at SW Alder St. and SW 4th Ave in downtown Portland. The building, a 96-unit low-income housing space managed by Central City Concern, a Portland nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness.

Fire crews were able to put the fire out quickly and all residents of the building were safely evacuated. Within hours after Portland Fire and Rescue put out the fire, the Red Cross mobilized to set up a temporary shelter for those displaced. As of Friday morning, more than 700 meals and snacks had been served to displaced residents by 70 Red Cross shelter workers. This is the largest shelter operation the Cascades Region has staffed in recent years.

Rick, a SW Alder resident, was at work just down the street when a friend called to tell him his home was on fire. He said he couldn’t believe it and was immediately concerned about where he would go for shelter, but his stress faded when the Red Cross stepped in to help.

“These people are just awesome,” said Rick. “It’s hard to put into words how impressed I am.”

Although the fire was a shocking and stressful experience, Rick said that he was relieved by the resources available at the Red Cross shelter. “The things I was worried about—I don’t have to worry about,” he said. “It really made the process a lot easier.”

In addition to providing shelter and food, the Red Cross is working to replace residents’ prescriptions and health equipment lost in the fire, as well as address residents’ medical needs related to the disaster.  The Red Cross is working closely with Multnomah County Animal Services to ensure the residents’ pets and service animals have a safe and warm place to stay close to their owners.

The operation—from shelter, to food, to health-related assistance—is being operated by a disaster workforce 70+ people strong. Scott Fine is helping to address medical needs of residents. 

Fine, a retired firefighter and EMT and a member of the Medical Reserve Corps, has been volunteering for the Red Cross for about six months.

Scott has previously deployed to West Virginia and Louisiana to assist with relief operations for two separate major flooding events.

“It’s been an amazingly positive experience working with a group of folks that are committed to helping others,” Fine said.

This week, Scott cut his vacation short so he could help out at the shelter set up for SW Alder residents. He’s meeting one on one with people to help them replace prescriptions and address medical needs.

“This is a unique situation with such a large number of clients at once,” Fine said. “Most of them have medical needs and we’re working to address those needs quickly.”

“It’s amazing watching people come together in a time of need,” said Scott, speaking of his experience working in the shelter this week. “Although it’s a lot of work, it’s very enjoyable at the end of the day to know that you made a difference.”