By Brianna Kelly, American Red Cross
When Karen Orosco and her family were evacuated from their home in the Village Oaks area of Chino Hills, California during the Blue Ridge Fire, they didn’t know quite where to turn. “I have lived in this community for 25 years and have never been evacuated. It surprised and kind of shocked me a bit, and then to realize that I actually had to leave my home without preparation was quite alarming to say the least,” says Karen. “I'm sad to say I'm one of the many, so not prepared when we know we should be. I’m a procrastinator and it’s always on the to do list that never gets done.”
When the Blue Ridge and Silverado Fires broke out in Orange and San Bernardino Counties on October 26, 2020, the American Red Cross Southern California Region jumped into action to help over 103,000 residents under evacuation. For those affected by the Blue Ridge Fire, the Red Cross set up a Temporary Evacuation Point at the Chino Hills Community Center. At this location, evacuees could find friendly volunteers providing help, including food, emergency hotel lodging options, and more.
Once they evacuated, Karen and her family soon visited the Red Cross Temporary Evacuation Point at Chino Hills Community Center.
“Initially, I was just taking the dog to the emergency shelter and decided to go register with the Red Cross, since I've never gone through this experience and to get a little guidance,” says Karen. “I was treated so kindly - and these volunteers, let me tell you, have tremendous patience and understanding. People are worried about their family, their pets and are scared they won't have a home to go back to when the crisis is over. I was one of those families. I filled out the form, was told everything was going to be taken care of, that the Red Cross can handle it from here.”
Red Cross volunteers took Karen’s information, and shortly thereafter, she received a phone call. “Within an hour my phone rang, providing me the number to the hotel that my entire family was going to, as well as providing three meals a day for as long as we were displaced. The relief I had in that very moment is beyond measure,” says Karen.
Karen and her family were not alone. During the Blue Ridge and Silverado Fires, over 100 Red Cross staff and volunteers worked around the clock to provide emergency hotel lodging, meals, health services, and more for over 500 people displaced by the fires. In total, the Red Cross provided 908 overnight hotel stays and served over 3,500 meals and snacks to evacuees. Additionally, Red Cross volunteers were in touch with evacuees each day, providing wellness checks and making sure evacuees felt safe, supported, and ensuring their needs were met.
“Three meals a day, wonderful quality meals and snacks. Phone calls to check on us often to see if we needed anything at all. A nurse phoned to inquire of any needs and to advise us if we needed medications or medical care to call,” says Karen. “What an amazing organization to provide such assistance, where they literally try to take care of your every need so that you don't have to. I spent most of the time in the room with the children, and you know that everything is alright when the kids think we are on vacation and having a great time.”
Thankfully, Karen and her family were finally able to return home. After their experience, Karen remarked on the impact of Red Cross volunteers on their family. “I did notice that this organization needs volunteers. I will do just that one day and be the person to give support and relief. I am grateful to each and every volunteer who gives of their time to help others. I say to them: ‘A million thank you’s!’ You make a difference in this world. You made a positive impact in my life and I'm forever grateful.”
You can help people affected by western wildfires by visiting redcross.org or calling 800-RED CROSS. If you have the time, you can also make a significant impact as a Red Cross volunteer. The Red Cross is always seeking volunteers. To learn more or to become a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.