Tag Archives: California Wildfires (2017)

Out of the Ashes: The story of a Santa Rosa family that survived the Tubbs Fire — and hopes to help other disaster victims

by Marcia Antipa

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The Dorsey’s first Christmas back home! left to right: Lynn, Brendan, Bill, and Brian

The weekend before the 2017 Tubbs fire swept through Santa Rosa, Bill and Lynne Dorsey were visiting their son in Arizona. As their flight home landed on October 8, they noticed the plane was buffeted by unusually strong winds.

Before they went to bed in their Coffey Park neighborhood, they heard there was a fire in Napa, but were not too concerned. However, just a few hours later, they woke up to hear the wind rushing and howling around their house. Then, they looked out the window. “We could see the embers coming out of the sky and emergency vehicle lights.

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Meet Gene Beck Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award Recipient Betsy Witthohn

Betsy Witthohn 420x279From the ashes of wildfires rise everyday heroes. Betsy Witthohn is one of them.

After reaching safety, the fire survivor recounts how time stood still two years ago until mandatory evacuation orders were lifted. Her mind was preoccupied with anxiety as she feared for the worst.

Returning to the area, she found the flames spared her residence. Many nearby were not as fortunate. That experience served as a catalyst to becoming a Red Cross volunteer. Her husband joined, as well.

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Red Cross welcomes a growing partnership with Corazón Healdsburg

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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Corazon Healdsburg bilingual volunteers (left) Norma Gomez and Luisa Fernandez-Palacios staff a desk inside the evacuation shelter at the Sonoma County Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa on Oct. 30. Photo credit: American Red Cross|Barbara Wood

Local nonprofit and Red Cross partner Corazón Healdsburg offered a crucial point of contact for Latinx families during the Kincade Fire. The organization staffed Red Cross shelters in Sonoma and Marin counties with bilingual volunteers. They met with displaced Spanish-speaking families or those who were adversely affected. For some, it was the only point of contact with whom they felt comfortable.

Since 2016, Corazón Healdsburg has worked diligently in the Latinx community to create resources and a safety net for low-income families to thrive. Their programs range from financial literacy to first-generation college counseling. So when disaster struck, many in the community already knew where to go: The Healdsburg Community Center.

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Former volunteer applies Red Cross lessons to loss of her home to wildfire

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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Former Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteer Jeanne Sternbergh (l) and her husband Jim (r), who lost their home in the Kincade Fire reconnect with old Red Cross friend Cindy Jones at the Local Assistance Center in the Healdsburg Community Center on Nov. 4. See more stories related to the Red Cross response to the Kincade Fire. See photos from this response.

Jeanne Sternbergh spent many years as a Red Cross Disaster Action Team member, responding countless times to help Sonoma County residents displaced by home fires. Now she’s helping herself.

Sternbergh and her husband Jim lost their home off Chalk Hill Road in Healdsburg, California to the Kincade Fire.

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Electeds help lead the charge in preparedness

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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Red Cross shelter manager Virginia Escalante and volunteer David O’Neil welcomes Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore at the Sonoma County Veterans Building. 10/28/19
Photo credit: Kathryn Hecht | American Red Cross
See more stories related to the Red Cross response to the Kincade Fire.
See photos from this response.

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore says the “new normal” should refer to preparedness, not disaster. “Let’s embrace being ready,” he said during a press conference in the middle of the Kincade Fire.

 

For the past two years, Gore, and his colleagues on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors put in place ambitious plans – coordinating with numerous state, county, and local agencies (including the Red Cross) and neighborhoods – to not only help a community recover from the Tubbs Fires Disaster in 2017, but also prepare for the next one.

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Fire Weather Warnings Mark the 2017 California Wildfires Anniversary

north-bay-fires_full-sizeTwo years ago today, our counties were struck by one of the most devastating disasters in recent memory. It has been extraordinary, and humbling, to see our communities come together and build back stronger from that terrible event.

Exactly two years to the day after the North Bay Fires, we are facing the nearly identical wind and fuel conditions lasting through the middle of this week. Fortunately, our community has learned important lessons and taken strong early action.

In response to the Fire Weather Watch warnings, Red Cross volunteers are mobilizing to ensure equipment, supplies, and teams are ready to go at a moment’s notice if needed. The Red Cross is in regular communication with government partners to determine potential needs in case a wildfire breaks out. As Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) open or are put on standby, Red Cross Government Liaisons are staffing them and ensuring availability of Red Cross services are known and requested as appropriate.

PG&E’s largest planned power outage yet could coincide with the two-year anniversary of the North Bay fires, a fall forecast combining at least three factors — hot weather, low humidity and strong winds — not seen since the October 2017 firestorm prompting the utility to consider shutting off electricity Wednesday and Thursday in up to 30 Northern and Central California counties. The advisory, affecting millions of residents and appears to exempt only two counties in PG&E’s service territory, Marin and San Francisco. No times or specific areas of the counties were mentioned. Updates will be posted on PG&E’s website, and the utility will also try to contact customers ahead of a shutoff.

Power Outage Preparedness
Visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare for detailed preparedness information.

Below are three simple steps you and your family can take to be ready, should there be an extended power outage that lasts multiple days:

1) Get a kit.

  • Your emergency kit should contain food, water, and other basic supplies to last at least SEVEN days, for each family member.
    • Water – 3 gallons per person per day, a gallon per mid-size pet for every three days
    • Food – non-perishable, nutritious food that requires little or no water or cooking to prepare that will meet the needs of your household
    • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries
    • Flashlights and extra batteries
    • Phone Chargers – A battery-operated or solar-powered phone charger that is big enough to provide several full charges, or one that plugs into your car, plus cords in each of your kits will help you stay informed, take photos, and communicate in an emergency
    • Cash – Keep small bills and change on hand to buy necessary supplies like water.
  • Also, don’t forget to include essential medications, first aid kit, copies of important documents, and special items for children and pets.

2) Make a plan.

  • If you rely on electric or battery-dependent medical technologies such as breathing machines, a power wheelchair or scooter, home oxygen or dialysis or take medications that need refrigeration, it is critical that you have a plan in place for an extended power outage.
  • Know how to manually open your garage door.
  • Fill your gas tank
  • Charge all your devices; Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers
  • Include your pets in your emergency plans. Remember, if you and your family need to evacuate, so does your pet. It’s important to know in advance to know which pet-friendly hotels are in your area, and where your pets can stay in an emergency
  • Plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and what to do if you have to evacuate.
  • Make sure to coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work, and your community’s emergency plans.

3) Be informed.

  • Be informed about which emergencies may occur where you live, work and play, and how to respond as safely as possible.
  • Find out how your local officials will send out emergency alerts during a local disaster (Nixle or other alert notifications system) and sign up to receive their notifications.

 

Safety during a Power Outage
Visit www.redcross.org/poweroutage for full power outage safety information.

Regardless of the reason for their occurrence, power outages can be frustrating and troublesome. For prolonged power outages, there are ways that you can minimize loss and keep everyone as comfortable as possible.

  • Use flashlights in the dark — not candles.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out, and roads will be congested.
  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment.
  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances — such as stoves — equipment and electronics that you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
  • Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.

If a power outage is two hours or less, don’t be concerned about losing perishable foods. During a prolonged outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to protect your food.

  • First, use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables are safe to eat when they have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Then, use food from the freezer.
  • If the power outage continues beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot, and cover it at all times.

If you are using a generator, keep it dry and don’t use it in wet conditions.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep these devices outside away from doors, windows, and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • Operate the generator on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up by poles.
  • Don’t touch a generator with wet hands.
  • Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.

Download the free Red Cross Emergency App for additional power outage safety information right at your fingertips.

  • The Emergency App provides real-time weather alerts and tips on how to stay safe during power outages and countless other emergencies.
  • Search “American Red Cross” in app stores or go to redcross.org/apps.

 

Remembering last fall’s Northern California fires

north-bay-fires_full-sizeDuring the devastating Northern California fires this past October, every person who fled their homes — and in many cases, lost them —  has a story to tell. So do the many Red Cross people who heroically stepped up to help in response to one of the most destructive weeks of fires in the state’s history.

Read our 2017 California Wildfires One-Year Stewardship Report

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