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Red Cross Response to Wildfire Disasters is in Emergency Phase in Minnesota

volunteer and client

The American Red Cross is operating shelters and serving meals to people affected by wildfires burning in north-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin. The wildfires continue to burn in some areas, threatening neighborhoods and forcing people to stay out of their homes. In addition, the Red Cross is working with disaster partners to provide food and water to first responders.

“During this emergency response phase our focus is providing shelter, food and water for people who have evacuated,” says Megan Mrozek, Emergency Services Director for the American Red Cross, Northern Minnesota Region. “Next steps will include conducting damage assessment once officials declare areas safe for return.”

Red Cross disaster relief workers from three Red Cross regions are responding to these wildfire disasters. In addition to shelter, food and water, they continue to provide psychological first aid, comfort kits with personal toiletry items and fire clean-up kits with household cleaning supplies. People who need assistance should call 1-800-560-7641.

Last night 85 people escaping the wildfires in Minnesota and Wisconsin stayed overnight in Red Cross shelters. In Minnesota, the new shelter location is Westside Laestadian Lutheran Church in Menagha; and in Wisconsin, the shelter location continues to be Drummond High School. The Red Cross urges everyone to follow the safety advice and evacuation orders from their local officials.

IF YOU ARE EVACUATING: Anyone evacuating to a Red Cross shelter should bring essential items for each member of the family:

  • Prescriptions and emergency medications
  • Foods that meet unusual dietary requirements
  • Extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies and other comfort items
  • Supplies needed for children and infants, such as diapers, formula and toys and special items for family members who are elderly or disabled
  • They should also try to contact their relatives to let them know where they are and how they are doing
  • WILDFIRE SAFETY: If a fire is threatening your neighborhood, you should listen to local media for updated fire information and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Other steps include:

  • Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Confine your pets to one room so you can find them if you need to leave quickly.
  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors.
  • Use the recycle or recirculate mode on your air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
  • More information on wildfire safety is available on the preparedness section of www.redcross.org.

    DOWNLOAD WILDFIRE APP: Another thing people should do is download the free Red Cross Wildfire App, available in English or Spanish. The app puts help right in people’s hands, such as real time alerts and Red Cross shelter locations, as well as instant access to steps people should take before, during and after wildfires. Owners of Apple and Android devices can download the free app in the in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. The app also features personalized local information and an “I’m Safe” feature to help people connect with loved ones if they need to evacuate.

    RECOVERING EMOTIONALLY FROM DISASTER: Disasters are upsetting experiences for everyone involved. Children, senior citizens, people with disabilities and people for whom English is not their first language are especially at risk and are likely to need extra care and help. But everyone, even the people that others look up to for guidance and assistance, is entitled to their feelings and deserves support throughout the recovery process.

    HOW TO HELP: In addition to this fire, Red Cross disaster workers have responded to several large disasters in the last several weeks, including the explosions in Massachusetts and Texas and the flooding across the Midwest. If someone would like to help people affected by disasters like these, they can make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief at www.redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

    IN-KIND DONATIONS: The Red Cross is unable to accept small, individual donations or collections of items such as clothing, food or cleaning supplies. The cost to sort, package and distribute these types of donations to disaster victims is almost always greater than the cost of purchasing the items locally, and it is logistically impossible to distribute a wide variety of individual items in a meaningful way.

    About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org.