Red Cross Volunteers Help Local Families During El Dorado Fire
The El Dorado Fire burns in the distance at the Red Cross Temporary Evacuation Point at the Yucaipa Community Center, which later was moved to Redlands East Valley High School. Photo: Ricardo Tomboc/American Red Cross
September 21, 2020
By Ricardo Tomboc, American Red Cross volunteer
On September 5, 2020, the El Dorado Fire broke out in San Bernardino County, quickly spreading and forcing thousands of evacuations. American Red Cross volunteers provided those impacted by the El Dorado Fire with help and hope when it was needed the most. Here are just a few of the stories of Red Cross volunteers involved with the El Dorado Fire response, and the families they helped.
Veronica Jimenez, her husband Edward, and four children were evacuated from their home in Mentone during the height of the El Dorado Fire. Veronica first went to her mother’s home, which was already a full house. Now, with 13 people under one roof, the home was bursting at the seams. On the plus side, the family did share one room by themselves…but everyone had to sleep on the floor! After four days living in a home with 13 people and no bed to lay their heads on, Veronica learned that the Red Cross was offering help to those who had been displaced by the El Dorado Fire. Upon arriving at the Red Cross Temporary Evacuation Point, Veronica was greeted by volunteer disaster workers who were able to help with her immediate needs, including food and shelter. The Red Cross provided a hotel room for Veronica and her family, as well as three meals a day, snacks, daily wellness checks and more until the Jimenez family was able to return home. Photo: Ricardo Tomboc/American Red Cross
Sue and Matt Bottenberg live in Forest Falls, a community that received mandatory evacuation orders during the El Dorado Fire. Initially, Sue and Matt chose not to evacuate, and decided to stay behind to protect their home - as did many other residents. However, after four days, the fire started to “move too close for comfort” towards their home. Sue and Matt packed up some belongings and their cat and went to the El Dorado Fire Temporary Evacuation Point set up by the American Red Cross Southern California Region. Upon arrival, Sue and Matt were greeted by volunteer disaster workers who were able to help with their immediate needs, including food and shelter. Red Cross volunteers worked to ensure special arrangements were made with several hotels to waive their “pet deposit” for evacuees, in order to allow family pets to stay with their owners. Once in their hotel, Red Cross volunteers delivered three meals a day to Sue and Matt, as well as offering daily wellness checks and other services until the Bottenbergs were able to return home. Photo: Ricardo Tomboc/American Red Cross
James Smith and his service dog Solomon, a Great Dane, live in the community of Forest Falls. When the fire department issued mandatory evacuation orders in his community, James decided to stay and try to protect his home from the El Dorado Fire. When the fire came closer to his residence, James felt he had no choice but to evacuate with his service dog. James said that he had accumulated many assets over the years, and it was hard to walk away from everything. When he evacuated his neighborhood, James drove directly to the El Dorado Fire Temporary Evacuation Point. This resource was set up by the American Red Cross Southern California Region to help evacuees plan their next steps. Upon arriving at the Temporary Evacuation Point, James was welcomed by volunteer disaster workers who were able to help with his immediate needs, including food and shelter. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Cross often houses people in hotels and motels, rather than traditional shelters, to help maintain social distancing. Once he was safely in a hotel, Red Cross volunteers also delivered three meals every day to James and other evacuees until they were able to safely return home. Photo: Ricardo Tomboc/American Red Cross
By day, Mark Phillips is a Pharmaceutical Manufacturer and lives in Orange County, California. Mark has volunteered with the American Red Cross Southern California Region for over a year and is also a member of the Huntington Beach Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Mark holds many volunteer roles at the Red Cross, including Community Partnership Team member, COVID-19 Service Associate, Sheltering Service Associate and a Shelter Team Member in Orange County. Mark was on standby to be called to help with the Red Cross response to the Northern California fires, but he was diverted and asked to serve at the Temporary Evacuation Point for the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino. Mark worked for several days at the El Dorado Fire Temporary Evacuation Point. A self-starter and a motivator among his peers, Mark never stopped working, and was even was caught pushing a broom while photographs were being taken. “There’s lots to know,” says Mark, “but you learn as you go!” Photo: Ricardo Tomboc/American Red Cross
Sarah Kulpa is an Orange County resident, but drove to San Bernardino County to assist at the Temporary Evacuation Point set up by the American Red Cross Southern California Region in response to the El Dorado Fire. Sarah heard about the American Red Cross and its founder, Clara Barton, while taking university class studies. Weeks before the Northern California fires, Sarah had learned more about the organization and decided to become a volunteer. Sarah initially received a notification that she was being placed on standby for the Northern California fires, but was diverted to help with the El Dorado Fire instead. At the Temporary Evacuation point, Sarah warmly greeted evacuees and helped them secure emergency lodging and more. Sarah’s skills and compassion for the clients allow her to carry out the Red Cross mission. Photo: Ricardo Tomboc/American Red Cross
Nicole Kinkade is a full-time San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Emergency 9-1-1 Dispatcher, but devotes her spare time to the Red Cross as a Disaster Action Team Member. Her ability to communicate and work with people proved valuable at the Red Cross Temporary Evacuation Point at Redlands East Valley High School. Nicole has been with the American Red Cross of San Bernardino for about a year. Nicole is also a Red Cross Blood Donor Ambassador and a COVID-19 trained Shelter Service Associate. Photo: Ricardo Tomboc/American Red Cross
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.