Our thoughts are with the residents of Spokane County who have gone through so much due to recent wildfires. The Gray Fire and Oregon Road fire forced thousands to evacuate on Friday, August 18. Teams of disaster workers with the American Red Cross quickly activated to provide safe shelter and care for wildfire evacuees. Since our shelters have opened, we've seen the community come together in support, providing help and hope to those who had to evacuate. Here are some of their stories:
FROM SHELTER CLIENT TO VOLUNTEER Sandy Hastings was visiting her dad in Spokane, Washington, when the Gray Fire began to burn. After receiving the notice to evacuate, they immediately got in the car and drove to the Red Cross evacuation shelter at Spokane Falls Community College. They were met with kindness and thoughtfulness from Red Cross volunteers. The shelter volunteers worked quickly to provide for the immediate needs of wildfire evacuees – from beds to wheelchairs, to medical necessities. “We had no worries about things because we knew they were backing us up," Sandy said. “The Red Cross was there every time an issue came up. If somebody needed something, they would say ‘Tell me what you need, let me get it for you.' If they didn’t know it, they found somebody that did.” The service she received from the Red Cross has not only touched her heart but also inspired her to be more involved. “After being here and seeing how everyone works, my husband and I want to become volunteers for the Red Cross," she said.
INTENSE MOMENTS Harvey Hooser, his wife and their toddler twins stopped by the Red Cross shelter at Spokane Falls Community College to access food, supplies and resources for those evacuating the wildfires. He and his family were able to find safe shelter at a friend's home, but he wanted find the support of Red Cross services after dealing with intense moments while evacuating. “The fire looked like it was all around us and there was only one way out of town," he recalled. "Traffic was back to back. It was tense.” Leaving in such a hurry, the family was unable to bring their cat and fish along and was worried about their pets’ wellbeing. Fortunately, Harvey was told by a firefighter that their house was okay.His twins met and talked to Megan Dulgar, Regional Executive for the American Red Cross Northwest Region. They said they were doing great and eager to go home once the evacuation was lifted.
SHELTER FOR FURRY FRIENDS Understanding that many evacuees evacuated with their pets, the Red Cross partnered with SpokAnimal to help keep the pets nearby. The Spokane Falls Community College gym was utilized as a shelter for evacuated pets. The care the pets are receiving here is exceptional. During the day, Red Cross volunteers or pet owners can be seen taking the pets out for walks. Paige McKee, who is serving as the Red Cross pet liaison, is thankful to be able to relieve some stress from both animals and their owners. “I’m a huge animal person, she said, "I have seven of my own! I’m really impressed that the Red Cross created this position. It’s going to make it easier for people to evacuate, knowing that their animals also have a safe haven to go to.”
COULD SEE THE FIRE ACROSS THE LAKE Some of the evacuees did not have a chance to take anything with them in a rush to evacuate. Meeting Red Cross volunteers with an optimistic smile, Paul Freeman showed up to the Red Cross shelter early. “I jumped the gun," he said, "I didn’t wait for the official evacuation. I was out having lunch and when I was done, I could see the fire across the lake. I decided not to go home and just get out.” The only belonging he brought to the shelter was his wheelchair. All other emergency needs were taken care of. He found at the shelter a place to sleep, shower and attain his basic needs.
YOU CAN HELP You can help people affected by disasters like fires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Every single donation will make a difference in someone's life.
Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767), or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.