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Red Cross teams continue to support the many residents affected by regional wildfires

Since mid-August, when many of the wildfires described below started in our region, we have been updating this post on a regular basis. Now that most of our efforts are focused on helping residents as part of the recovery phase of this Red Cross response, we will only update this post if future circumstances warrant.


Please see the information below that summarizes all of the great work our volunteers, employees, and partners have done to support our communities. We are also so appreciative of the donors whose generosity makes our work possible.

Background: The lightning storms that swept through our Northern California Coastal Region in mid-August caused a number of large and destructive fires in our chapter areas, prompting quick responses by our region’s Red Cross teams. Other fires subsequently started in our region in September, including the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma Counties.

Working alongside our government and community partners, Red Cross teams — comprising responders from inside and outside our region — have provided shelter, food, and comfort to the many residents impacted by these wildfires.


Here is information about the wildfires that have occurred in our region since mid-August:

  • Glass Fire (active): This wildfire, in Napa and Sonoma Counties, had burned 67,484 acres by Friday morning, October 16, with 97% containment. At that time, Red Cross teams were still on the ground in the affected area, working — with our community partners — to support evacuees.
  • SCU Lightning Complex: This originally comprised approximately 20 fires between Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus Counties. This fire, which burned 396,624 acres, is considered 100% contained.
  • CZU August Complex: This fire, forcing widespread evacuations in San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, was listed by CalFire as 86,509 acres in size with 100% containment.
    • Most recently, the Red Cross supported a mobile recovery center that Santa Cruz County organized in Boulder Creek, providing resources and disaster relief items, such as sifters, disaster kits, gloves, and shovels to community members who are returning to their properties.
    • CalFire incident web site
  • River and Carmel, and Dolan Fires, Monterey County: The River Fire, which burned 48,088 acres, and Carmel Fire, which burned 6,905 acres, are both considered 100% contained; the Dolan Fire was up to 124,924 acres at 98% containment.
  • Woodward Fire, Marin County: This fire, which burned 4,929 acres, is considered 100% contained.

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How we have supported residents affected by the wildfires that have occurred in our region since mid-August:

As of October 15, two months after the fires started in the Northern California Coastal Region …

  • Nearly 120 Red Crossers were still working to provide food, shelter, relief supplies and comfort to people affected by the wildfires.
  • Since August 17, the Red Cross and our partners had provided nearly 120,000 overnight stays during the wildfire response.
  • With the help of partners, the Red Cross had provided more than 133,000 meals and snacks and distributed more than 1,150 cases of water.
  • More than 20,000 disaster relief items, including comfort kits and other emergency and clean-up supplies, had been distributed to more than 4,000 households.
  • Volunteers had also provided more than 10,700 individual care contacts to help people with medical or disability needs or provide emotional and spiritual support during this challenging time.

This is in response to fires that have burned more than a million acres, destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and other structures, and forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

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Recovery Overview:

As the American Red Cross transitions into the recovery phase for these wildfire disaster response, residents still in need of disaster services will have continued access to those services as needed on a case-by-case basis. All Red Cross services, including financial assistance, are available to individuals regardless of nationality, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, class, or political opinions. The Red Cross is a charity, not a government agency, and people do not need to be American citizens to receive our help.

The Red Cross is continuing to offer all available recovery services and resources to these residents, including casework; shelf-stable meal and emergency supply distribution; and health, mental health, financial and spiritual care services. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these services will be offered virtually; for all in-person recovery efforts, CDC-recommended guidelines, PPE, and social distancing will be enforced.

The Red Cross works with local governments and community partners to help residents rebuild and recover. This can include local city, state, and federal resources and nonprofit organizations.

Affected residents should also visit redcross.org/wildfire for important safety information before returning to their home. Taking added precautions in an area that has recently experienced a fire will help ensure you and your family’s safety.

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  • Having returned home after their Glass Fire evacuation, a Santa Rosa couple expressed gratitude for the Red Cross assistance they received. Read their story.
  • Almost two dozen staff members from Esalen Institute were among the evacuees from the destructive Dolan Fire, giving them a front-row seat to the Red Cross response. Read their story.
  • A Red Cross volunteer writes about the important role the Latino Engagement Team has played during this response. Read his story.

    Karen Stickler, her husband, and their dog found comfort and caring in a safe Red Cross shelter in Vacaville. (Photo: Kathleen Maclay)

  • Bill Corbin and his family, evacuated from their Santa Clara County home, appreciated the overnight accommodations the Red Cross provided — and a followup call from a volunteer nurse. Read their story.
  • BreAnna Sanabria, a volunteer from Highland, California, felt the power of simply sharing a smile. Read her story.
  • An award-winning actor and his friend rolled up their sleeves, joining other volunteers to build re-entry kits for evacuees returning home. Read his story.
  • American Red Cross volunteer Anne Johnson, deploying all the way from Alaska, saw a Central Coast client’s needs all the way through. Read her story.
  • Dennis Patterson of Santa Cruz evacuated then moved from backyard to backyard with his tent until he found safe shelter with the Red Cross. Read his story.
  • Vacaville area resident Karen Stickler, her husband, and their dog fled their home because of the LNU Fire, eventually finding a Red Cross shelter where they received care and comfort. Read their story.
  • Waiting to learn the fate of her own home, which was in the path of the CZU Fire, Linnea Dunn did what brings great satisfaction to her: She helped others as a Red Cross volunteer. Read her story.

For an index of blog posts related to this disaster response, please go to this site.

We also continue to add other photos to our regional Flickr album related to this disaster response. (Thanks to our volunteer photographers!)

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Messages to our (amazing) volunteers, employees, and partners:

  • In an August 25 message to American Red Cross volunteers in the Northern California Coastal Region (NCCR), CEO Jennifer Adrio expresses her gratitude for the work that so many — from inside and outside our region — are doing as part of this large disaster response. She also saluted the many Red Crossers for the mission-critical work they are continuing to do outside of this DR.
  • In an October 5 message, NCCR CEO Jennifer Adrio reiterated her thanks for work that Red Crossers have done since a succession of wildfires began in our region in mid-August. “I am more proud than I can say, really, of everything that our amazing volunteers, our dedicated staff, and our committed partners have done during these past seven weeks,” she said.

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Regional TV telethons help the Red Cross help the many people affected by wildfires:

  • KPIX-TV (CBS, Channel 5 in the Bay Area) hosted a telethon on August 24 to raise vital funds for the Red Cross’ California Wildfire Disaster Relief work. People were able to participate in this fundraising event by calling 1-855-848-GIVE (4483) or by making an online donation via this special Red Cross site. We are so thankful for the partnership with KPIX and for the generosity of the many donors who participated in this important fundraising effort!
  • KGO-TV (ABC, Channel 7 in the Bay Area) hosted a telethon on September 17 to raise vital funds for the Red Cross’ Western Wildfire Disaster Relief work. The telethon was done in coordination with other ABC stations, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, Eugene, and Spokane. People were able to participate in this fundraising event by calling 1-866-499-GIVE (4483) or by making an online donation via this special Red Cross site. We are so thankful for the partnership with Disney/ABC and for the generosity of the many donors who participated in this important fundraising effort!
  • KSBW-TV (NBC/ABC, Channel 8 in the Central Coast) hosted a telethon on September 22 to raise vital funds for the Red Cross’ California Wildfire Disaster Relief work. People were able to participate in this fundraising event by calling 1-866-499-GIVE (4483) or by making an online donation via this special Red Cross site. Thank you to KSBW for the station’s incredible support, and thank you to the many donors whose generosity made this important fundraising event so successful!

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  • The status of shelters can change rapidly during a disaster. If you are unsure about the location of open shelters in your area, please go to redcross.org/shelter.
  • If you’ve been affected by any of these fires and are in need of assistance, please call us 24/7 at 1-800-RedCross (1-800-733-2767) . All assistance is free, thanks to the work of our volunteers and the generosity of our donors.
  • During a disaster, stay connected with loved ones by visiting the Red Cross Safe and Well website at redcross.org/safeandwell to reconnect with loved ones. The site allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to indicate that they are safe or to search for loved ones. You can also use the “I’m Safe” feature of the Red Cross Emergency App to let loved ones know your status. The free App — which also has other very useful features — is available for smartphones and tablets; just go to redcross.org/apps.
  • This regional press release summarizes some of our early work during this Disaster Response and provides disaster preparation and COVID-safety tips. See release.
  • How has our Red Cross disaster response work been modified because of the pandemic? See this story.
  • How to prepare for disasters, including additional steps during COVID. See this story.
  • It’s easy to overlook the mental health needs of people affected by fires. In this regional press release, we provide tips on how to cope — and help others cope — with the stress. See release.
  • For the safety of our shelter residents and workers, the Red Cross is unable to accept in-kind or material donations of any kind right now. Due to increased safety measures for COVID-19, storing, sorting, cleaning and distributing donated items could be especially risky.
  • You can support our disaster-response work in two very important ways: Become a Red Cross volunteer and/or make a financial donation.
    • Become a volunteer: Please consider getting trained as a Shelter Worker so that you can help us help others during wildfires and other large disasters. For more information and/or to start your application process; just go today to redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html.
    • Make a financial donation: Just go here and designate your gift for Disaster Relief. Thank you so very much!

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Please continue to share this important information with others as needed. Thank you!

Among evacuees, Esalen staffers are grateful for Red Cross


“The level of coordination and care was outstanding,” Esalen Institute’s Terry Gilbey said of the Red Cross response to the Dolan Fire. (Photo by Jens Wazel)

Founded in the 1960s in picturesque Big Sur, the Esalen Institute has a well-earned reputation for exploring human consciousness and developing human potential. The center attracts visitors from around the world whose interests in subjects such as personal growth, meditation, massage, yoga, and spirituality are explored less seriously by traditional universities and religions.

Terry Gilbey, the General Manager/CEO, has been with the institute since 2016. Just a year into his tenure, he helped the center stay afloat after landslides and a bridge failure made the facility inaccessible for many months. So the institute — and Terry — has had some practice with disasters. Read more

Fire, fear, and a helping hand

By Marcia Antipa

Roxanne, Hunter, Bill, and Vera Corbin

On a hot, windy Thursday in late August, the Corbin family of Morgan Hill got a cellphone alert: an evacuation warning, telling them to get ready to leave their home. Firefighters said the SCU Lightning Complex Fire threatened their community.

Bill Corbin realized the threat was serious.

“The wind was blowing southeast,” says Bill. “If it was to pick up, we would definitely be in danger.” Read more

Actor discovers why our volunteers have been VIPs during CZU Fire


Preparing to assemble re-entry kits for fire evacuees returning home, Casey Affleck is briefed by Michele Averill, CEO for the Central Coast Chapter (right), and Kerrin Welsh, Regional Preparedness Manager, in a warehouse in the community of Aromas. (Photo by Brian Nichols)

As a long-time Red Cross volunteer and disaster responder, I have seen first-hand the impact disasters have on individuals, families, first responders, and entire communities. Although the resulting devastation and loss are unbearable, natural disasters can also bring out the very best in people who step forward to help in any way possible.

Academy Award-winning actor Casey Affleck and his friend Brian Nichols were two such people, wanting to provide assistance during the devastating CZU Lightning Complex Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Read more

‘This One Really Hit Me’ — A Volunteer Story

Written by Patricia Friedman

Red Crosser Anne Johnson; a virtual selfie.

American Red Cross Volunteer, Anne Johnson, calls Fairbanks, Alaska home, but this year, she has found herself all around California – virtually that is. Anne is a recovery casework volunteer and spends her days calling people impacted by wildfires to offer Red Cross support services. In addition to resources, Anne also spends long hours on the phone, offering one invaluable service: connection.

“I was nervous about virtual deployment,” Anne says. “How do you offer something long distance from Alaska?” Yet, she quickly figured it out. With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people apart, Anne realized that people desired a personal connection and to be heard. Something struck her during a recent conversation with a Red Cross client. “This one really hit me,” Anne said, and she knew she had to do something more.

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Red Cross is Music to My Ears

Written by Patricia Friedman

Dennis at his house. Photo | Dennis Patterson

Dennis Patterson’s first love is playing music, but his second is helping others, so he was “blown away” by the American Red Cross’ response to the California Wildfires.

A Santa Cruz local since 1952, 72-year old Dennis, and many in his small community of Ben Lomond, didn’t realize the size of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, which to-date has consumed more than 86,000 acres. Dennis was already overwhelmed and in shock from a horizontal tornado that days earlier, had swept through his neck of the woods, knocking a 100-foot Sycamore tree onto his tiny house. “I can’t describe it. I couldn’t even breathe when I got out the door,” Dennis told friends who came to help at daylight.

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