In September 2020, a series of wildfires broke out in the American Red Cross Southern California Region, forcing the evacuations of over 40,000 residents in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. While wildfires throughout California simultaneously ravaged the other parts of the state, the El Dorado Fire, Snow Fire, Bobcat Fire and Valley Fire in the Southern California Region all spread quickly, fanned by high winds, hot temperatures, and dry terrain. Immediately, hundreds of local Red Cross volunteers jumped into action and for over four weeks straight, provided immediate assistance for evacuees.
Over the course of the September wildfire response, Red Cross volunteers established six Temporary Evacuation Points in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, where those affected by wildfires could find assistance. At each Temporary Evacuation Point, friendly volunteers welcomed evacuees, providing them with food, hydration, health services, assistance with pets and access to emergency lodging at nearby hotels. Once safely at these hotels, those affected by the El Dorado Fire, Snow Fire, Bobcat Fire and Valley Fire received constant care from Red Cross volunteers, who provided daily health checks, disaster mental health support and spiritual care, and who delivered breakfast, lunch and dinner to evacuees every day. All services were delivered in accordance with COVID-19 safety precautions. As wildfire evacuations were lifted and residents were able to return home, Red Cross caseworkers worked with families to begin the recovery process.
In total, the Red Cross and partners served over 38,000 meals and snacks, provided more than 7,600 overnight hotel stays in 3,298 hotel rooms at 27 hotels, and made more than 5,000 individual disaster care contacts. The Red Cross provided help and comfort to evacuees facing uncertainty in difficult times – giving evacuees a sense of community and hope when it was needed most.
The Red Cross Southern California Region is dedicated to helping those affected by disasters and works closely with emergency management partners to coordinate relief efforts. Every disaster is different and so are the needs of each affected community and family. The Red Cross works closely with local partners to create plans and coordinate recovery services to ensure people get the assistance that they need to get back on their feet. Trained Red Cross volunteers and staff are on call around the clock and stand ready to assist in various aspects of disaster response and recovery, including sheltering, feeding, disaster assessment, casework and more.
WILDFIRE SAFETY STEPS
- A wildfire can spread very quickly, giving you little time to get out of the area safely. Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Obey evacuation orders from officials.
- Back your car into the garage or park it outside in the direction of your evacuation route.
- Confine pets to one room so you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
- Limit exposure to smoke and dust - keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
- Do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor pollution such as candles, fire places and gas stoves.
- If you are trapped outdoors, crouch in a pond, river or pool.
- Do not put wet clothing or bandanas over your mouth or nose. Moist air causes more damage to airways than dry air at the same temperature.
- If there is no body of water, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks. Lie flat, face down, and cover your body with soil. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching your lungs or inhaling smoke.
- Do not return home until officials say it is safe to do so.
HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Help people affected by the western wildfires by visiting redcross.org, calling 800-RED CROSS or texting the word WILDFIRES to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters.
Want to help people specifically affected by the California, Oregon or Washington wildfires? Write “California Wildfires,” “Oregon Wildfires” or “Washington Wildfires” in the memo line of a check and mail it to your local Red Cross chapter with the completed donation form.
For California Wildfires you can also text the word CAWILDFIRES to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts and safety advice on wildfires and other emergencies. The Red Cross First Aid App provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. Download these apps for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.
VOLUNTEER If you have the time, you can make a significant impact as a Red Cross volunteer. Review our most urgently needed volunteer positions at redcross.org/volunteertoday. Get trained now so you will be ready to respond to disasters in your community.