Devastating wildfires continue to consume hundreds of thousands of acres in Washington, destroying homes and businesses in the area. The American Red Cross is providing a safe place to stay, food to eat and emotional comfort to people affected by the fires.
Red Cross workers have four shelters open in the region, as well as client service centers where people can meet with caseworkers and health and mental health specialists. Emergency response vehicles are traveling throughout the area, bringing food to people in the affected communities.
Since the start of the Red Cross response, workers have provided more than 300 overnight shelter stays; 13,000 meals and snacks and 540 health and mental health services in the community. More than 225 Red Cross disaster responders from throughout Washington and across the country have come to the area to support this disaster operation.
The Red Cross is also distributing items such as trash bags, heavy work gloves and masks, as well as comfort kits with items such as toothbrushes and soap to people who are starting to clean up their neighborhoods. Red Cross workers remain in close coordination with Emergency Management teams to identify what additional help people may need.
HELPING MIGRANT WORKERS It’s harvest season in the Wenatchee Valley, the heart of the local economy. Migrant workers and their families are working throughout the area, some living in homes or employer-provided housing; others in tents and camps. They, too, have been affected by the fires that raced through the hills.
Many of these workers speak only Spanish, so the Red Cross is providing daily updates to the community in both English and Spanish. Several of the caseworkers, health service and mental health specialists are also fluent in Spanish, and more are expected to arrive in the area soon. As a long-term recovery plan takes shape, the Red Cross will continue to address the needs of the migrant workers and their families.
“We’ve been ramping up our efforts to expand our reach and mobilizing teams to go to the migrant communities directly,” said Megan Snow, Red Cross regional communications director. “We want to be sure they are aware that the Red Cross is here to help them if they’ve been affected by these fires.”
“Each disaster is different and no two communities are alike,” explains Helen Perrin, client services manager. “Understanding the context of the community is key to responding effectively and providing the help that is so needed.” Perrin noted the efforts of volunteer translators have been invaluable.
WILDFIRE SAFETY People living near the fires should stay informed about the situation and be ready to leave their homes at a moment’s notice. Other safety steps include:
Listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.
Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
Be cautious driving in the area - winds can unexpectedly cause poor visibility on the roads.
Drivers should also watch for downed power lines and poles.
Listen and watch for air quality reports and health warnings about smoke. People with health conditions need to take extra precautions.
Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you do not have air conditioning and it is too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves. Do not vacuum because it stirs up particles that are already inside your home.
If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your health care provider's advice and seek medical care if your symptoms worsen.
WILDFIRE APP You can also download the free Red Cross Wildfire App for preloaded content that lets users know what they should do before, during and after a wildfire.
FIRST AID APP Folks should also download the Red Cross First Aid app to have information on hand about how to handle the most common first aid emergencies.