By Ricardo Tomboc, American Red Cross volunteer
Arianna Aguirre and her six-year-old daughter Kristine found themselves in the middle of a wildfire evacuation as the mountain next to their home burned out of control. Not knowing where to go, Arianna was able to stay at a friend’s home while they were out of town on vacation; however, Arianna’s friends soon returned and she and her daughter were displaced again. The evacuation orders for her neighborhood were still in place.
Then, Arianna learned that the American Red Cross was at Beaumont High School in Riverside, where Red Cross volunteers had set up a Temporary Evacuation Point to help those displaced by the fire. At the evacuation point, Red Cross volunteers were warmly welcoming evacuees, providing COVID-19 health screenings, gathering basic information and relaying the information to virtual caseworkers. Virtual caseworkers remotely gathered additional information from evacuees, and then placed them in nearby hotels or motels, where evacuees were able to have a safe place to stay, daily health check-ins, meals delivered by Red Cross volunteers and other vital support.
Arianna works from home and was able to set up shop in her hotel room! Daughter Kristine spent most of her time enjoying the swimming pool. In the beginning, Arianna was concerned about how the evacuations would impact them, and if she would even have a home to return to. Arianna said she was originally from Texas, where she never experienced fires or emergencies at the scale of the Apple Fire.
After a conversation with her Red Cross caseworker, some of Arianna’s concerns diminished. It was explained that the Red Cross would take care of emergency lodging, meals and other needs until evacuation orders were lifted for her neighborhood. Arianna said the Red Cross took good care of her and kept her informed on all fire and evacuation updates, expressing her thankfulness and saying she would have never thought of ever receiving help from the Red Cross. Thankfully, volunteers were there to provide help and hope when Arianna and Kristine needed it most.
Author’s note: Arianna’s interview took place at the back door of her hotel lobby, as she was leaving to return home – her neighborhood’s evacuation orders were finally lifted!