On a recent warm and breezy summer evening, a “roomful of heroes” gathered at Fire Station 85 in El Dorado Hills, California. Senator Ted Gaines and Assemblywoman Beth Gaines had called together the group of about 40 Red Cross volunteers and staff who had served during the Trailhead Fire that blazed over more than 5,600 acres in Placer and El Dorado Counties from June 28 to July 9, when it was fully contained.
Senator Gaines opened the event with his sincere thanks and said that a key element of a great community is people who step up - and certainly those in the room had stepped up. He went on to remind the attendees of the facts of the Trailhead Fire, including that the fire threatened 2,600 structures, though none were damaged or destroyed. And the senator highlighted an emerging challenge for firefighters - the disruption that personal drones present to firefighting efforts. Senator Gaines stated that a drone had grounded aircrews in certain areas causing additional risk for firefighters and citizens. The illegal use of the drone in the fire area resulted in the arrest of the drone owner.
Assemblywoman Beth Gaines addressed the group as a “roomful of heroes” and said, “You make our community great…because you always show up when there is need.” The assemblywoman expressed her thanks and appreciation to firefighters and Red Cross volunteers and staff.
When Gary Strong, CEO, American Red Cross, Gold Country Region took the podium, he emphasized the value of volunteers to the Red Cross and the community, especially during fire season. As he said, “Every year is a fire year in California” and the Red Cross must be prepared to help and support effected communities during disaster situations.
The Red Cross opened two shelters – one in El Dorado County and one in Placer County -to serve evacuees during the Trailhead Fire. Not only did the shelters provide comfort to those in need, they also provided Red Cross staff and volunteers the opportunity to hone their skills in shelter fundamentals increasing their experience and readiness for when the need for shelters arises again.
The senator and assemblywoman closed the event with the presentation of a certificate and a few words of gratitude to each volunteer. Yet, this gathering was about more than certificates and words of gratitude, though they were clearly much appreciated. This was also a reunion of friends who greeted each other with happiness, the warmest of smiles, and friendly hugs. This may have been a “roomful of heroes”, but perhaps more importantly, this was a roomful of friends whose warmth and caring reaches far beyond those they know within the ranks of the Red Cross to the many in need when disaster strikes, whether a large scale wild fire, a flood, a home fire, or any event that calls upon us to step up and help our neighbor.