Veterans and the Red Cross working together

By Virginia Becker

IMG_0043The fires that broke out in the Napa area began around 11 p.m. on Sunday, October 8, 2017. A weather phenomenon known as the “Diablo winds” contributed to fueling this fire and turning a great portion of the Napa Valley into a raging inferno. The Diablo wind is a name used to describe the hot, dry offshore wind from the northeast that typically occurs in the Bay Area during the spring and fall. These winds are their most dangerous in the fall when vegetation is at its driest, which were the exact conditions that day.

These winds propelled the fire into neighborhoods that had never been affected by fire before. Just three hours after the fire started, the fire had spread by hundreds of acres. Emergency calls went out to residents in the area around 2 a.m., telling them they needed to evacuate. By 3 a.m., word had gotten out that there was a shelter that was about to open at the Veteran’s Hall in Santa Rosa. By 4 a.m., the doors to the Veteran’s Hall were open, and evacuees came pouring in. By 5 a.m., fresh brewed coffee was being served.

One big question would be, how did the Veteran’s Hall manage to get it’s doors open and it’s hall ready that quickly? The answer to that would be because of the fast action of the veterans who meet regularly at that particular Veteran’s hall. Starting at 3, they called their members, explained the situation, and asked for volunteers to come to the hall and help prepare for evacuees to arrive. Six veterans were at the hall in a matter of minutes.

What made this situation more complicated was that all the tables in the hall were stacked with hundreds and hundreds of boxes of books that we about to be given away at a book faire that weekend. The six men worked as fast as they could to clear the boxes off of the tables.

Soon they learned that patients from nearby hospitals might be arriving. They needed to clear out all of their back rooms and make room for the incoming stretchers, cots, and medical equipment. They needed to get their kitchen ready for use so breakfast could be served in a couple of hours.

These six men did the work of 60 men. It is because of them that the doors to the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Hall could open by 4 a.m. Two of these veterans are shown in this picture: James Horton and Lee Redfield.

The Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton in 1881. Clara risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field during the Civil War. Her understanding of the ways she could provide help to people in distress guided her throughout her life. How wonderfully coincidental that in this extreme time of need, it was our veterans who were the ones to open the first doors for this disaster. Once those doors were open, it was our veterans and the Red Cross working hand and glove to provide services to those in need.


Jim Burns provided editorial support for this story.