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Wildfire Volunteers Enriched by Community’s Spirit

Red Cross volunteers support wildfire evacuees in a shelter in Browning, Montana.

Red Cross volunteers support wildfire evacuees in a shelter in Browning, Montana.

I feel so privileged to have had this experience.

When historic wildfires raged in Montana last summer, a small group of volunteers brought relief to hundreds of evacuees. The American Red Cross is recognizing the country’s everyday heroes during Red Cross Month.

In August 2015, Red Cross resources were already taxed by wildfires burning in California. When fires sprung up both in Montana and Idaho, volunteers flew in from around the country to help.

Red Cross volunteer Joan Richards traveled from Hyannis, Mass., to serve in a shelter in Browning, Mont. Because authorities evacuated the town of Heart Butte, a large population of people living on the Blackfeet reservation came to the shelter.

“I really did not know anything about the Blackfeet Nation before arriving at the shelter. As soon as I started working here,” Richards said, “I noticed how warm and friendly and solicitous the people are in this community.”

“The people—never seen anything like it,” said Gene Wallis, a four-year Red Cross volunteer from Appleton, Wis. “You don’t have to ask them to help—they look around for what is needed and they just do it.”

“I needed to do a shelter check,” said Nancy McKenney, a veteran volunteer from Pierre, S.D. “A group of local women just took over. They knew everyone and got it done in twenty minutes. It would have taken us two hours.”

The Browning shelter supported 305 overnight stays and served 740 meals and snacks.

Volunteers help staff blood drives, volunteer at veterans hospitals, teach people lifesaving skills like First Aid and CPR, respond to home fires in the middle of the night and so much more. Red Cross volunteers give their time to help their neighbors and local communities. “I feel so privileged to have had this experience,” Richards said.

Become an Everyday Hero

Volunteers comprise 90 percent of the Red Cross workforce. Every day, the American Red Cross depends on local heroes to deliver help and hope during an emergency.

Sign up today to join the ranks as a Red Cross volunteer and be part of the lifesaving work. Support Red Cross Month and become an everyday hero by signing up to be a Red Cross volunteer, blood donor or financial contributor at

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 or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.