Author Archives: Barbara Wood

Tirtza, Barry and Gumby help out in Gold Country shelter

Photos and reporting by Barbara Wood

Tirtza and Barry Pearl

Tirtza Pearl of San Francisco figures she has deployed nearly 60 times since she joined the Red Cross in 1991 after the devastating firestorm swept through the hills of neighboring Oakland. Only recently, however, has she convinced her husband, Barry, to join her. Both Pearls worked in a Red Cross shelter in the Cameron Park Community Center in El Dorado County after the Caldor Fire in September. It was Barry’s second deployment.

“The people who volunteer for the Red Cross are an amazing group of people, ” Barry said. “They devote heart and soul to the clients.” 

Barry says, so far, he’s only deployed with Tirtza. “I feel much more confident of all her years of experience,” he said.  “I’m still learning the ropes.” 

In addition to recruiting her husband, Tirtza has brought another special guest along on at least ten deployments – Gumby. The stretchy green figure represents the unofficial motto of the Red Cross “Semper Gumby” or “Forever Flexible.”

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Ready for the Next Wildfire: After Multiple Evacuations, Sonoma County Resident Has a Plan

Hecht’s evacuated chickens and Gertie, the family dog, safely stashed in the car.

After twice evacuating her home for days during major wildfires, and living through several more evacuation warnings, you’d better believe Kathryn Hecht has a plan for the upcoming fire season.

The Sonoma County resident is a Red Cross regional communications manager whose job includes informing the public about the best ways to prepare for disasters.

She practices what she preaches.

Near her front door Hecht has stashed pet carriers and a go bag that includes clothing, important papers, emergency supplies, dog and cat food and toiletries. She has planned two driving routes out of her neighborhood, and a foot route in case those two are blocked. She subscribes to her county’s emergency notification system, Nixle, has the Red Cross emergency app on her phone, and follows local sources of emergency information on Twitter. She and her husband have agreed on two emergency meeting points in case one is unavailable.

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11-year-old who alerted her family to a fire is honored as Red Cross hero

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Berlin Gomez-Muniz, 11, received a Red Cross “Hero” medal for alerting her family to a Dec. 19 fire in San Jose. Her mother, Frankie, and Silicon Valley Red Cross chapter board chair Terry Unter look on. Photo: Mark Butler/American Red Cross

Berlin Gomez-Muniz stood quietly as a 3-inch diameter “Hero” medal was draped around her neck at the Jan. 16 Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross board meeting, but when it was the most important, the 11-year-old says, she yelled so loud her throat hurt after she alerted her extended family to a fire just before Christmas. Read more

Red Cross-installed smoke alarm alerts mobile home residents to fire

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These volunteers were among those installing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the Sunshadow mobile home park on Feb. 19, 2019, six months before two residents’ lives were saved when the smoke alarms alerted them to a fire. Photo Credit: American Red Cross/Oleksii Nazaruk.
Click here for more photos from the event.

San Jose resident Nguyen Robson had been an American Red Cross volunteer for less than a year when he was called to help two mobile home residents displaced by a fire and received a vivid lesson about his volunteer work’s impact.

When Robson arrived at the Sunshadow mobile home park in San Jose, the two residents — waiting safely outside their home — greeted him with grateful recognition in their native Vietnamese. They remembered Robson as one of the volunteers who had installed smoke alarms and helped them prepare an evacuation plan for their mobile home only six months earlier. The alarm woke them from a mid-afternoon nap and allowed their escape.

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Red Cross was there when she needed it says woman whose home burned in fire

This is another in a series of stories we are posting on this regional blog related to the American Red Cross response to the Kincade Fire disaster:

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KerryAnn Laufer, who lost her home on Chalk Hill Road in Healdsburg during the Kincade Fire, says she doesn’t know what she would have done without the help of the Red Cross after the fire. (Photo Credit: American Red Cross/Barbara Wood)
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KerryAnn Laufer lost her home in the Kincade Fire, but she says her experience with the American Red Cross at the Local Assistance Center in Healdsburg on Nov. 5 helped her when she needed it the most.

“I’m so grateful for the Red Cross. You guys bailed me out when I wasn’t in a good place there,” she said of her visit to the assistance center. She arrived shaken after having seen the long line of people seeking help in the parking lot of the Healdsburg Community Center.

“What has been a big emotional piece of this for me has been the scale of it,” she said. That the fire had left many people in need “was very apparent in the parking lot,” she said. “It rattles me, even more than my personal loss.”

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Local Red Cross volunteers help others while evacuated from their own homes

This is another in a series of stories we are posting on this regional blog related to the American Red Cross response to the Kincade Fire disaster:

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American Red Cross volunteers Vince and Robin Dieter worked on logistics and transportation and staffing for the Red Cross response to the Kincade Fire even as they were evacuated from their own home in Windsor by the fire, which came within blocks of their home. Photo credit: American Red Cross

While more than 400 Red Cross workers eventually helped with the response to the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, many local volunteers who were evacuated from their own homes worked tirelessly on an effort that allowed more than 6,500 evacuees to stay in Red Cross and community shelters even while the Red Cross workers were unsure what had happened to their own homes.

Among the many local Red Cross volunteers who had been evacuated were Windsor residents Vince (logistics and transportation) and Robin Dieter (staffing), and Jeff Fleisher (logistics and facilities).

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