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Red Cross Works Tirelessly to Help Wildfire Evacuees

  • Disaster Mental Health Services Tina Doty
    Disaster Mental Health Services Tina Doty, a resident of Oahu, Hawaii, offered her help to victims of the wildfires.
  • John and Patricia Cappa
    John and Patricia Cappa in front of their tent at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga, California, where they await word when they can return home. (Red Cross Photo by Carmela Burke).
I saw people covered in soot, a look of shock, despair, and hopelessness etched upon their faces.

American Red Cross workers continue to work tirelessly alongside local community groups in California more than a week after fast moving wildfires forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.

RED CROSS RESPONSE More than 1,100 people accessed Red Cross and community shelters Sunday where they can get food and drinks, showers, support and information about the situation. Since evacuations were first ordered, more than 450 trained Red Cross workers have:

  • Served more than 49,000 meals and snacks
  • Provided 8,300 overnight stays in 12 shelters
  • Handed out nearly 7,000 relief items
  • Provided nearly 3,000 health and mental health contacts
  • Opened more than 170 cases to provide individualized recovery support
  • In some areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, the Red Cross is distributing food and relief supplies to support people as they return home. The uncertainty of the situation for the people impacted by the fires is frustrating and emotionally draining and Red Cross mental health volunteers are available to help. Health services workers are also helping to replace prescription medicines and provide other support.

    Red Cross caseworkers are meeting one-on-one with people to create recovery plans, navigate paperwork and locate help from other agencies. In some situations, the Red Cross is providing direct financial support to people who need extra help. These services are available at local resource centers in Middletown and Jackson.

    VOLUNTEER FROM HAWAII LENDS A HAND The fires have damaged or destroyed more than 1,600 homes and are threatening thousands more. Tina Doty, a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Services volunteer from Oaho, Hawaii, was visiting her Napa Valley, California home when the wildfires broke out in the region. She made her way to the Red Cross shelter at the Calistoga fairgrounds to offer her help and described what she found:

    “As I made my way into the cafeteria, I saw people sitting at tables, some eating, some not, others staring into space, or their heads hung low. One woman was busy nursing her young infant and children were occupied in a corner with coloring books and related activities.

    “I saw people covered in soot, a look of shock, despair, and hopelessness etched upon their faces. Others sat on cots outside with their pets, mostly dogs. Larger animals such as horses and llamas were in a nearby field. Calistoga residents made sure all animals were provided water and food.

    “I spoke with several people who told horror stories of barely making it out alive with what little belongings or pets they could. Many people only had the clothing on their backs. One man mentioned that he could not start his car because he realized that he was holding his house keys then turned around to see his house burning. He walked out of the area and eventually made it to the shelter. A woman came into the shelter crying. ‘What do I do now? Everything's gone,’ she said.

    “Other people in the shelter told stories of getting in their vehicles with family members and speeding through fireballs. Many houses were completely destroyed and turned to piles of ash or unrecognizable debris. One woman came up to me at the shelter to tearfully announce that she learned her house was still standing, at least for now. I gave her a big hug.

    “I realized that that this was my very first large-scale community disaster as a Red Cross volunteer. Kudos goes out to the many area fire fighters who are still fighting the blaze. Although I was definitely not anticipating this terrible event, I took away from it that even with all the global problems taking place around us, human caring and compassion still rules. “I am very proud to be a Red Cross volunteer.”

    ONE COUPLE’S STORY John and Patricia Cappa were evacuated from their home by the Valley Fire in Lake County and are making the best of the situation by camping until they can return to their neighborhood.

    Neighbors warned the couple about the fire. They first drove to Middletown High School. “We watched the flames come over the hill to Cobb then down to Middletown,” Mrs. Cappa said. The couple fled the high school and when the Napa County Fairgrounds opened its doors to evacuees, they decided to stay there.

    Residents of Cobb since 2000, the couple knows their house is still standing and are waiting to hear when they can return home. Describing how the Red Cross has supported them during their time away from home, Mr. Kappa said, “Everybody is excellent. Kudos to your crew.”

    DOWNLOAD EMERGENCY APP People can download the Red Cross Emergency App which contains information about what to do in case of wildfires and more. The app contains wildfire safety tips and users can set notifications for fire weather watches, red flag warnings, dense smoke advisories and air quality alerts. You can also use the “Family Safe” function to instantly contact loved ones. Users can find it in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

    WILDFIRE SAFETY People can also get safety information by visiting the wildfire safety section of this web site.

    HOW YOU CAN HELP Donations to the Red Cross are being used to provide help to people in need right now and will enable us continue providing help as communities recover. People can help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. We respond to nearly 70,000 other disasters every year, from home fires to wildfires and more. Learn more about how Disaster Relief donations have helped people affected by previous disasters including home fires.

    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. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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