Rising Out of the Ashes

By Jessica Piffero, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross

68 year old Liz Jackson has been living with wildfires her whole life

“I fought my first fire when I was just seven years old living in Australia,” said Liz.

Her noticeable Australian accent makes her stand out, but Liz has been a local Cobb resident for decades. More than a week after the Valley Fire began, she is still under evacuation orders, and may be one of the last residents to return home.

“The flames were all along the ridge, it just lit up the sky. And of course there was the smoke,” said Liz.

Liz was working in her garden when the call went out.

“I looked around at what I could grab quickly, and there was my laundry basket full of clothes. I just grabbed it and left with the clothes I was wearing in the garden,” said Liz, pointing to her sandals.

She was one of the last residents out of the area, as the flames flicked at the side of the road and police set up the final barriers. She made it to safety but was soon restless. She heard that the Red Cross was having a volunteer recruitment event at one of the local shelters in Kelseyville. This was her chance to help, so she made her way down to the event.

“I couldn’t just sit around waiting, doing nothing. I wanted to help!” said Liz. Plus, the work would take her mind off the anxiety of her home’s uncertainty.

The Red Cross paired her with a supply distribution team in Middletown, where she was able to help her friends and neighbors by passing out vital resources like rakes, shovels, clean up kits, gloves, ice chests, snacks and water.

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“I’ve just been so impressed by everyone at the Red Cross,” said Liz, “It’s really been a whole community effort by these volunteers.”

Now staying in the Red Cross shelter at the Twin Pine Casino in Middletown, Liz has become an integral part of the team.

“She’s part of our Red Cross family now!” said one volunteer. She turned to Liz before leaving for her shift, “Give me a call when you find out about the evacuation orders, we want to be there for you when you find out about your home.”

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