Tag Archives: Wildfire

Critical Fire Weather and Wildfire Starts in Across California

As of Thursday, a Red Flag Warning expired in Northern California but went into effect for Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties through Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service. In addition, more than 170,000 Southern California utility customers are under a power shutoff watch throughout the region. Twenty-two counties in Northern California in recent days have also sustained power shutoffs in preventative wildfire efforts. PG&E has begun restoring power in those Northern California counties. The Red Cross has had logistics teams in place monitoring events across the state. Read more

Red Cross on Stand By during This Week’s Red Flag Warnings

The71111277_3017413478333988_2054345572789256192_n National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning, which is in effect from 1 PM Monday to 11 AM Wednesday. A Red Flag Warning is issued for weather events which may result in extreme fire behavior that will occur within 24 hours. The type of weather patterns that can cause a warning include low relative humidity, strong winds, dry fuels, the possibility of dry lightning strikes, or any combination of the above. Multiple counties in American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region are under Red Flag Warnings, including parts of Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and East Bay Hills. Read more

Reflections on Paradise Lost

By LeeAnn Woodward

Tuesday, September 10 was a day I will never forget.  I had the chance to visit the town of Paradise with some of our donors, 11 months after the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, devastated this community.  It took the lives of 86 people, destroyed almost 19,000 structures, and covered over 153,000 acres.

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As we drove through the ridge, we saw charred trees, the signs of where a hospital used to be, the local salon, a grocery store, even a McDonald’s with only the golden arches left standing – it was not only emotional but also strangely inspiring to see the rebuilding that’s starting to happen. Read more

Community togetherness in times of need

By Lindsay R. Peak

rc420 x 279Having survived the Valley Fire that decimated so much of Lake County in 2015, the mother/daughter duo of Kathleen Connors, 66, and Kelly Grimsley, 33, moved to Santa Rosa in August 2016 to make a “fresh start.” They had barely settled there when they heard the astonishing news in October 2017 of the threatening Tubbs Fire near their new home.

The two quickly fled, traveling toward Healdsburg in search of safety. A wrong turn landed them in Guerneville. Realizing their mistake, they looped back toward the freeway, eventually arriving at the emergency Red Cross shelter at Windsor High School in the early morning hours.

Remembering the feeling of being displaced with her daughter and a just a few important papers, fire survivor Connors pensively jests, “This was as ‘fresh’ as it gets.”

Night one, the pair slept on wrestling mats on the shelter’s floor. Night two, there were cots. “That was a really welcome thing. We could really rest a little bit,” says Connors.

In the days to come, community donations began to pour in. Connors and her daughter recounted the large mountain of available items piling up in the center of the gymnasium, including bedding. Padding their cots with layers of sheets, blankets, and warm comforters made their unthinkable situation feel a little more like home.

“All of our immediate needs were met,” says Connors.

Connors had limited experience with the American Red Cross prior to staying in the shelter. She recalls participating in basic training decades before while volunteering as a candy striper, but not much more.

No strangers to giving, Grimsley and Connors had regularly volunteered with local charities and non-profit organizations. Grimsley, diagnosed with autism and with other medical challenges, enjoys donating her time to help benefit others. Most of the projects Grimsley and her mother had choosen to work on are geared toward fundraising for or increasing awareness of a particular cause.

But this experience was different, as the first-time shelter clients were receivers instead of givers of volunteer services.

“What an extraordinary compassion [it is] to receive,” says Connors. “I never gave it a second thought when on the other side. It’s just what you did. Being on the receiving side, you see that these people are really extraordinary. The compassion was extraordinary. To receive that was just amazing.”

Connors further explains, “All the resources were organized. We saw everyone working with law enforcement. We had food. Medical care was available. A hug was there if we needed a hug.”

Commencing the long process of rebuilding, Grimsley took to the Internet. Online, she discovered that a beloved local chapel was among the structural fire victims. Once praised for its exquisite mosaic wall, only the tiles survived. A handful of individuals sought volunteers for an art project aimed at making trinkets from these recovered tiles.

Mother and daughter had frequently taken art classes, so the project seemed like a perfect fit.

With their spirits down, the creative process was a welcome distraction. It was a way to occupy their minds, bring them together with the community, and use their talents in a positive way while going through the many stages of grief.

Over a period of three months, this mother and daughter worked roughly 200 hours on the project. After the tiles were cleaned, tumbled, and polished, they were crafted into crosses, ornaments, garden accents, and tie tacks, among other things. In all, the pair and others involved created over 1,000 unique keepsakes.

The tile creations were given away at a variety of events aimed at community togetherness. They served as a sign of strength, symbolic rebuilding, and comfort in times of need. Some mementos were sent to the Camp Fire this past fall. Others were distributed to local churches.

By word of mouth, more and more volunteers participated in the project. And, it is not over.

“There are still projects to do. There are still tiles,” says Connors.

Connors and Grimsley presented each Red Cross volunteer with one of their masterpieces as a token of appreciation at the California Northwest Chapter’s September BBQ celebration.

Connors has many human-interest stories and positive experiences to share, including a misunderstanding about the comfort level of a standard-issue cot.

After leaving the shelter, she and her daughter were briefly displaced again. Connors marched into the local Red Cross office to seek assistance one more time. Connors asked a Red Cross representative if she could borrow one of the cots she got so familiar with over the course of a few weeks in the shelter. The Red Cross representative looked at Connors with a confused look and said, “You want to borrow… a cot?” Connors confidently replied, “Yes. We were in a shelter. We slept really good on the cots. I will bring it back. I want to borrow it just for a few days.” The woman left momentarily and returned, visibly concerned. Without saying yes or no to the request, the representative compassionately stated, “Ma’am, I think you need a pysch evaluation.”

Connors, taken aback, then explained how the community donations and experience with the Red Cross made the standard-issue cot more than a cot to her and her daughter in their time of need.

Understanding her experience more completely, the two shared a good laugh.

“It was a fun moment,” says Connors.

Rising from the ashes, this mother-daughter twosome remain positive as they continue to search for permanent housing. They have slept in numerous places including an office and at Red Cross volunteer Peggy Goebel’s home.

Uprooted twice by natural disaster, Connors has learned and shares a mantra about one’s home:

“Home and sacred ground is where you are whatever moment in time it is.

“The fire was the fire,” she says. “We have to choose to appreciate things that came out of the fire that were amazing. There were a lot of people we wouldn’t have met or known had it not been for the fire. It has its moments. There is a little silver lining.”

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About the author: Lindsay Peak is a volunteer writer for the California Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Turning White Elephants Into Angels

By Larry Dietz, Public Affairs Officer

All of us have been to the Holiday Party where you are asked to bring a “White Elephant” or modestly priced gift to exchange. When your number is called, you dread walking over to the pile of gifts and picking what you are sure will be something you would never buy for yourself and would more than likely end up at your local second-hand store.

Dr. Charles Renner and his wife, Susan, of Concord decided to do something different this year. They had been following reports of the devastation of the Camp Fire. While neither they nor their families were personally affected, they felt a kinship with those who were. “I just imagined myself in their shoes,” Susanne said. Read more

Red Cross response to Mendocino Complex Fire

As of Friday, August 17, 2018, 12:00 p.m.
For information on Red Cross services, call the 2018 Northern California Fire Storms Hotline at 855-558-1116.

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Jordan Innes, 8, is glad that he can be with his pets while he is staying at the Lower Lake High School shelter. (Photo: Virginia Becker, American Red Cross)
For more photos, please go to this Flickr site.
Read some of our client and volunteer stories from this disaster relief operation. 

 California Northwest Chapter Executive Director Jeff Baumgartner address concerns about the Red Cross response in this blog post.

Three weeks after the Mendocino Complex Fire erupted in northern California, the Red Cross is there as communities recover, making sure people get the help they need as they cope with the aftermath of these deadly fires. According to officials, the Mendocino Complex Fire, which includes the River Fire and the Ranch Fire, which is 76% contained, has burned more than 378,000 acres and destroyed 157 homes in Lake County.

Alongside many community members and partners, 374 Red Cross disaster workers, most of whom are volunteers, continue to support to people whose lives have been turned upside-down by these wildfires. Read more

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