Numerous wildfires are burning across the west, scorching hundreds of thousands of acres, destroying structures and forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. The American Red Cross is on the ground and urges residents who may be impacted by these fires to be prepared to evacuate if needed.
The Red Cross is responding in California, Colorado and Utah, providing food, shelter, relief supplies and comfort for those affected. Red Cross disaster workers are working with local, state and federal fire officials to ensure both people forced out of their homes and first responders are getting the help they need. The Red Cross has provided almost 950 shelter stays, served more than 36,000 meals and snacks and distributed more than 1,000 personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies.
CAMPERS BECOME ENGAGED AT RED CROSS SHELTER The Red Cross shelter in Blanca-Fort Garland, Colorado, hosted a couple with a true love story whose plans were interrupted by the Spring Fire. Steven Williams, his family, and his girlfriend – Brittney Brewer – were visiting Colorado from Tennessee when bad luck interrupted Steven’s careful planning.
While camping on family property in Forbes Park, the Spring Fire began burning through the area, causing the group to quickly evacuate. They left their tents (which survived somehow) and grabbed some critical items, but left without many of their belongings, including all of their hiking gear. Stored in a nearby structure, their items were lost in the fire.
Fortunately, they all made it out safely. And fortunately for Williams, he made sure to grab the engagement ring he was planning to give Brewer during a planned hike up nearby Blanca Peak (the 4th highest summit of the Rocky Mountains). With their hiking gear lost, so was the opportunity to propose on the Blanca Peak summit. The Tennessee resident proposed during their Spring Fire evacuation anyway – an announcement that was cheered by fellow evacuees at the Red Cross shelter.
The couple is planning to be married this fall after returning to Tennessee. The Spring Fire has changed plans for many families but failed to stop this story of true love.
WILDFIRE SAFETY STEPS
People in the path of these fires should get their emergency kit ready now in case they have to evacuate. Pack the following in an easy-to-carry container:
One gallon of water per person, per day – include a three-day supply.
A battery-powered or hand crank radio
Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Copies of important papers, list of medications, proof of address, deed or lease to your home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies
A cell phone and charger
Family and emergency contact information
Maps of the area
Any medical or baby supplies family members may need
Manual can opener
If you are coming to a shelter, bring your emergency kit, bedding, clothing, medications and your child’s stuffed animal or blanket.
IF A FIRE OCCURS Listen to your local media for updates on the fire and be ready to leave quickly. Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing your direction of escape. You should also:
Keep your pets in one room so you can find them quickly if you have to evacuate.
Arrange for a temporary place to stay outside the threatened area.
Keep your indoor air clean – close windows and doors to prevent the smoke outside from getting in your home.
Use the recycle mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to be inside, seek shelter somewhere else.
If smoke levels are high, don’t use anything that burns and adds to air pollution inside such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves.
AFTER THE FIRE Don’t go home until fire officials say it is safe. Be cautious entering a burned area – hazards could still exist. Avoid damaged or downed power lines, poles and wires. Other things to do include:
Keep your animals under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn them.
Wet down debris to minimize breathing dust particles.
Wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles.
Throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
Recheck for smoke or sparks throughout your home for several hours after the fire, including in your attic. Wildfire winds can blow burning embers anywhere so check for embers that could cause a fire.