With 34 homes destroyed and more than 100 people evacuated, the Pfeiffer Fire disrupted the community of Big Sur, Calif. With the help of the community, 85 volunteers from the American Red Cross Gateway to the Golden State Region were there to assist those affected by the fire.
“I feel we did really well, the recipe for success was we didn’t try to do it alone, it was a regional response,” said Liz Ford, Monterey Bay Area disaster chair.
The fire, which started around midnight on Dec. 17, 2013, was fueled by dry conditions and rapidly burnt through 917 acres of vegetation and homes near the Los Padres National Forest before it was contained on Dec. 20, 2013. Although the Big Sur area is remote, it is one of the more populated parts of the Monterey County coastline.
“I feel a tremendous sense of pride that when called upon, our local volunteers respond quickly, without hesitation as to what area they are going,” said Patsy Gasca, Disaster Program Manager for Santa Cruz County.
Through the support of generous donors, volunteers provided food, emotional support, and information to those who had to evacuate their homes. Additional financial support was given to those who lost their homes to provide food, clothing, bedding, rental assistance, and medical support. The wider Monterey County community also stepped up to assist the families who evacuated their homes and those who lost their homes.
“The Big Sur community—the business owners and the hotels—really came out strong,” said Red Cross volunteer River Gurtin of Carmel. “They put up everyone for free. So we didn’t have to do housing or feeding at the beginning.”
Liz said the Red Cross was able to help in unexpected ways. One client with asthma was offered accommodation in the area but the smoke was affecting her condition.
“We were able to get her some lodging outside the area,” Liz said. “She was very grateful because she didn’t think there was anything anyone could do because all the lodging offered was in the area.”