By Dana Simmons, American Red Cross
Selena Estrada joined the American Red Cross as a youth volunteer in 2020 with the role of helping kids prepare for disasters through Prepare with Pedro and The Pillowcase Project. Over a year later, Selena and her family were helped by Red Cross Disaster Actions Team (DAT) volunteers after experiencing a home fire in El Centro, Calif.
On Sunday, August 1, 2021, Selena and her family ate lunch in town and then headed back to their home to rest. Her mother started to notice a strange smell in the house, so she went to their side door to investigate where it was coming from. That is when she found their carport and chicken coop structures engulfed in flames. Selena’s mother quickly shut the door, calmly told the family that there was a fire and instructed everyone to evacuate through the front door. “We all walked out in our bare feet, and I knew we had to leave as soon as possible,” Selena said.
Once everyone was evacuated from the house, her mother called 911, her father and some close friends. Selena remembers that firefighters from almost every city in the Imperial Valley including Imperial, El Centro, Calexico and Holtville responded to the blaze and that it took several hours to put the fire out. In addition to first responders, the Estrada’s friends, neighbors and the Red Cross arrived at the house to provide help and comfort for the family.
The Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) was able to provide the Estrada family with financial assistance, blankets and comfort kits. Selena expressed that it’s powerful to have a strong community and that many people were there for her family when they needed it most.
While the Estrada family continues to recover from the fire, Selena shared that they learned a lot from the experience. “I believe we have all come to the conclusion that everything on this earth is temporary and the most important thing is that we have each other,” Selena said. “Sure, there are times when we remember certain keepsake items that we no longer have and shed some tears because they cannot be replaced but, we can’t be replaced either.”
Selena encourages others to prepare for home fires as well. “Make sure you and everyone you love are safe and away from the fire no matter what,” Selena shared. “Plan ahead, know your exits, trust the people you live with and if they say they see a fire, trust them and get somewhere safe.”
To learn more about home fire preparedness, visit redcross.org/homefire. The American Red Cross Southern California Region is also helping save lives by installing free smoke alarms in homes that don't have them, and by educating people about home fire safety. To learn more or to request free smoke alarms and a free smoke alarm installation, please visit SoundTheAlarm.org/SoCal.