Snapshots from Red Cross Shelter at Middletown High School

By Susanne Lafaver, Red Cross volunteer

Many first-time Lake County fire evacuees sought shelter at the American Red Cross shelter at Middletown High School during the Mendocino Complex Fire.

42909540625_2179569b2a_k“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Daniel Waggoner of Lakeport. “We felt welcomed right away. The Red Cross really cared about my wife and me, and didn’t leave us until they were we each had a cot, blanket, toiletries, water, snacks, and everything we needed.”

“Staying with our 7-month-old puppy was especially important to us,” said Waggoner’s wife, Jennifer. “Red Cross volunteers gave us a dog crate so we could stay in the shelter which allowed pets. We were so glad to be there.”

Recent widow Stella Tafoya arrived at the shelter with her dog, Chica, bewildered and unsure. “I was afraid I would run out of gas because I drove from Lakeport to a Kelseyville shelter, but then that shelter was evacuated to Middletown,” she said. Because of her recent knee surgery, Tafoya received a special, padded comfort cot and blanket.


“My concern was that I would have to give up my dog. Luckily, a donated crate was available for Chica,” Tafoya said. “I’ve never met such wonderfully caring people in my life. I’m forever grateful to the Red Cross.” Photo credit: Susanne Lafaver | American Red Cros

Former volunteer firefighter Martin Klier got to the Middletown shelter via Cobb Mountain with his wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and various other family members, as well as his brother-in-law’s ten milking goats.


Rod Surber of Cobb Mountain, and Martin Klier of Lakeport, visited their herd of friendly Alpine goats they trucked down Cobb Mountain when an evacuation advisory was announced. They are staying at the Middletown High School Red Cross shelter, adjacent to the property where the goats are being kept. “I can’t believe it’s all worked out,” Klier said. “Being in a Red Cross shelter has been really, really good. Even the goats got corralled at Middletown High School.”
Photo Credit: Virginia Becker | American Red Cross

Evacuating with her cat challenged Betty Lou Surber of Lakeport, but she said the Red Cross made comfortable and offered a pet leash for Surber to exercise the animal.


“Walking a cat is new for me,” Betty Lou laughed. “All went well until my cat tried to climb a tree. All in all, staying in this Red Cross shelter has been a good experience.” Photo credit: Susanne LaFaver | American Red Cross

Youngsters at the shelter were entertained with glitter tattoos by Chayo Mosqueda, owner of a Lake County face painting and body art business.


“I just wanted to lift their spirits and change their perspective away from the fire,” she said. Red Cross arranged a special table and Mosqueda set up shop, using supplies stored in her car trunk. It was a visual treat for shelter youth such as Lilly Chetwell, Paola Esparza and Jason Moron Esparza.  Photo credit: Susanne Lafavre | American Red Cross