The American Red Cross Responds to Wildfires; Local Volunteer Answers the Call to Help…. Part II

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Shirley and Rudy Senarighi

On Tuesday, July 22, Rudy Senarighi, of Sturgeon Bay, WI, packed his bags and was on a flight to Seattle, Washington to assist in the area of Disaster Mental Health for those impacted in the WA Wildfires.  We brought you Rudy’s story on July 25 and to read the first part of his story click HERE.

We are proud of Rudy for putting his life on hold to answer the call to help. We are happy to share that Rudy will be coming home to Wisconsin on Thursday from his Red Cross deployment. We thank him for sharing his thoughts, experiences, and how the Red Cross is helping those impacted….here is the rest of his story.

DAY 4:

It was a long, hot day in Pateros. Up at 5:00 AM to get some coffee before the drive north for a meeting of organizations in Pateros. We set up two tents near the high school to accommodate Disaster Mental health, Health Services and Client Casework. Had a number of folks stop in, some just to sit and relate their stories. The fire has burned down enough so damage assessment can get in and take a look around. The estimate prior to this was 200 homes destroyed. They now are saying they estimate over 300 were lost. Some are talking about rebuilding, some are just leaving, its sad. The town still has no power as 300 miles of wire and poles were burned and are down. They are hoping to get the main line along the highway and into town done over this weekend, but the laterals to the folks in the back country won’t be up for at least a month. Most of them are on generators, but there has been a rash of generator thefts. The orchard growers are bringing in big diesel generators to be able to water the orchards. They are estimating that they have lost 12 – 18% of their trees and fruit from the fire. A 75 year old smoke jumper team captain said in all his years of dealing with fires, he has never seen one as devastating as this one. By the way, my hot shower tonight was WONDERFUL!!!!

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DAY 5:

 91 degrees and clear sky in Pateros today but the good news is power is back on to most of the town. The outlying areas (dirt roads to the interior) are still w/o electricity. However, we are bringing in food, water and tomorrow will begin to bring in ice to them. Temps are predicted to hit mid 90s tomorrow. People continue to show up at Pateros high School with trailers or truck loads og goods to donate. Talked with a couple today who drove from Walla Walla to Pateros to donate. (mapquest that one) Some folks were sharing that they had been allowed back into their property and were sifting through the ashes. they said the found some ceramic stuff intact (been fired already) but everything else was burned or melted. As in every disaster there are weird stories about things surviving. A family pulled their trailer away as the flames were rolling up the hills toward their place. Their buildings were destroyed, but the patio table, chairs and umbrella were still standing untouched.


They are moving us to Brewster,WA in the next two days as they begin to restructure the approach. that will give us less driving to get to the affected area. Working in that temperature today was pretty draining. Kept hydrated, but I am really bushed tonight. Five more active days for me and then I outprocess and head home. Great experience here, but it really helps ground you in the reality of how fortunate you are to have a comfortable home and loved ones to return to.

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DAY 6: 

Flexibility. Plans changed. The fire blew up again in Black canyon which is 7 miles up the road from Pateros, so that’s where we were sent back to this morning. The scooper planes and helicopters along with firefighters on the ground handled it well. air was smokey for the morning but the fire was out. We made outreach trips to the Alta Lake area. 47 homes completely destroyed there along with many vehicles. Good news for the day is the temperature did not hit the predicted 102 degrees and stayed at 94. People are beginning to really come to our service center, which lessens our time driving the back roads looking for people. we’ve coordinated well with other agencies, and there is minimal duplication of services. At one point we thought we would be ramping down the operation, but there still is a lot of the forest hot and burning.

The reception that we have gotten from the people here is very positive and welcoming. My big “in” with one of the local leaders is that her favorite uncle is named Rudy. What a lucky guy.

DAY 7:

 

The community at Pateros is ending their mass feeding tomorrow. They have been operating from the high school, but need to get ready for the school year. All the donations stored there (and as Jacob Marley would say about the quantity, “it is a ponderous thing) need to moved and stored by Friday. We will be working with the Southern Baptist group to continue the feeding from our ERVs. Temperature is rising, hitting 106 today. We have put up tent awnings to deliver our casework from, but it still gets quite warm under the tents. People continue to return and shift through the ashes.
I have downloaded a couple of pictures of the area from my camera. You have to imagine 400 square miles looking like this. There is a picture of two cars in a driveway. The shiny ribbons of metal between them is melted aluminum from the cars. There is a constant smell in the air of wet ashes, like when you drown a campfire. Fire is now at the stage similar to a controlled burn. Most of the really hot spots are in the national forest. The terrain is rugged and remote and much of that will burn or be controlled by back fires.

It has been a week now and the shock is setting in for the people. Business is picking up.
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Day 8: 
Last day in the field. 109 degrees at 4:.00. Drank a LOT of water today. The fire flared up again and planes were ferrying water from the Columbia River back to the blaze and dropping it. Got a couple of pictures from the rise overlooking Pateros. Smoke made the air hazy for most of the morning, but it cleared off slightly by afternoon. Talked to one resident who lost his house who told me the ground got so hot the buried wires and PVC pipe melted. Attaching some photos of the planes scooping water from the river. tomorrow is my day off. Plan on a lazy day and doing some laundry. I out process on Thursday. If I don’t work that day I am going to try for a flight home. Got a nice goodbye from the folks in Pateros.

 

The American Red Cross Responds to Wildfires; Local Volunteer Answers the Call to Help

Disaster Mental Health Manager Diane Hermanson looks at damaged property from the Washington wildfires. The fires have forced people to leave their neighborhoods and more than 200 people have stayed in numerous Red Cross shelters since the fires started.

Disaster Mental Health Manager Diane Hermanson looks at damaged property from the Washington wildfires. The fires have forced people to leave their neighborhoods and more than 200 people have stayed in numerous Red Cross shelters since the fires started.

Wildfires have already destroyed almost 300,000 acres in Washington and officials are asking for other states to send firefighters to help put out the flames. The American Red Cross is supporting the affected residents and first responders fighting to extinguish the blazes.

 The fires have forced people to leave their neighborhoods and more than 200 people have stayed in numerous Red Cross shelters since the fires started. Many others visit the shelters during the day to get the latest information about the fires and have access to other services.

Red Cross workers have already provided more than 3,200 meals and snacks and the Southern Baptist Convention has opened a mobile kitchen to help the Red Cross distribute meals throughout the affected areas as they are deemed safe. They are also providing health and mental health services and meeting one-on one with people to determine what other services they need.

The Red Cross is also distributing things such as trash bags, heavy work gloves and masks to people who are starting to sift through the ashes where their homes once stood. Red Cross workers remain in close coordination with Emergency Management teams to identify what additional help people may need.

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Shirley and Rudy Senarighi

On Tuesday, July 22, Rudy Senarighi, of Sturgeon Bay, WI, packed his bags and was on a flight to Seattle, Washington to assist in the area of Disaster Mental Health. This is not his first deployment, and usually he goes out with this wife, Shirley, who is also a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Volunteer. Between the two of them, the couple has over 60 years of professional experience as counselors, teachers and administrative supervisors.

We are proud of Rudy for putting his life on hold to answer the call to help. Rudy is now into day three of his Red Cross deployment. We thank him for sharing his thoughts, experiences, and how the Red Cross is helping those impacted.

Day 1:

Made it to Wenatchee. Really a pretty place on the floor of the river valley. Tomorrow I head up to Brewster, WA. Most of the place burned to the ground. Will be meeting with townspeople. We also will go to Omak which is nearby. There are 13 of us that will be divided into 6 teams. We heard tonight that the fire has shifted and is heading toward a wilderness area near the Canadian border.

Burned-vehicles-NW-wildfires-jpgDay 2:

Spent the day in and around Pateros, WA connecting with people and bringing water to those in part of the burned out area. The town is still without power, but has drinkable water now. I am amazed at the heat that fire must have generated. Saw cars that had burned with puddles of melted aluminum around the ends of the axles from what had been the hub caps. The only evidence of some homes were cinder blocks stacked in a rectangle. I’m scheduled to go back to Pateros tomorrow with my partner to meet with the community. The big fire is 0% contained, but the fire fighters are trying to direct it NE. That is an area that was burned a few years ago and thus there is less fuel in that area for the fire to really burn. Today, just after my partner and I returned to Pateros, there was a lightening strike along the road we had just driven, and started another fire. These guys just can’t get a break.

Day 3: 

Pateros was an exciting day. Heard lots of stories, connected with many people. The fire was described by many as a “Fire Storm”. It rolled through the town and valleys very fast, only about 20 minutes. The fire trucks tried to keep up but they drained the cities water and couldn’t do anything more. The only interruptions came when the tanker planes flew over and scooped water out of the Columbia River, a sight I had only seen in movies. National guard moved in today and are doing 24/7 checks of property and people in the back country. Still some looting happening. People are very friendly and appreciative of our presence. we are working closely with the people of Pateros, they really have things under control, an exemplary job. Will go back tomorrow and set up a permanent site for Red Cross at the supply station there. Fire is 52% contained, but we were cautioned that contained does not mean controlled. however, the fire fighters are making progress every day. The hot weather and wind is a problem, both for the fire and for blowing loose ash and dust in the air. Skin feels pretty gritty tonight. But, they just moved us into a different staff shelter, Wenatchee High School. That means hot water and showers tonight.

The work of the American Red Cross is made possible by donations. Donations can be made by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions can also be sent by mail to a local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross via P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Deployment Spotlight: Barbara Behling – Communications Officer – Shelter Keepsake & Autographs

Barbara Behling, left on Friday, May 16, 2014 when she got the call that her help was needed in the Red Cross response efforts for the wildfires in California. She flew back Wednesday, May 21, 2014 and here is one of the many stories she has written during her deployment. We thank Barbara for giving of her time and talent and for sharing the stories of how the Red Cross is helping those in need.

Photos & Story by: Barbara Behling, American Red Cross  

Eloise Aleman Pillow is autographed by Martin Astl

Eloise Aleman Pillow is autographed by Martin Astl

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Barbara Behling, (left) with Eloise Aleman and her signed pillow.

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It’s not often you have to leave your home with a 5-minute warning but for Eloisa Aleman this was San Diego wildfire reality. From frantic moments she found comfort, friendship and compassion in the Mission Hills High School shelter for several days.

From a collection of individuals, a community was formed thanks to a sea of red vested American Red Cross responders. Each person was welcomed to their ‘temporary home’ with a safe place to sleep, food and snacks around the clock. Medical professions provided a watchful eye to ensure any health issues were addressed including replacing medications left behind from a hasty exit.  Compassionate care was provided to help calm fears and reduce stress as the flames grew and the smoke came closer.  Through partnerships, all their pets were housed, fed and even walked. A few individuals even slept next to their furry friends in separate quarters.

When the evacuation orders were lifted many returned home to resume normal daily activities. However, for some, a new reality was about to begin with clean-up to begin as their homes were reduced to ashes.

Eloise Aleman was so impressed with the hospitality! She wanted a lasting reminder.

“You are all like family!” she exclaimed.

So she wanted to keep her shelter pillow and pranced to each red vest for an autograph and a hug.  This act of appreciation, gratitude and memory will last a lifetime for each Red Cross worker.

When You Lose Not Only Your Home, but Your Safe Haven

Barbara Behling, Communications Officer, left on Friday when she got the call that her help was needed in the Red Cross response efforts for the wildfires in California. She is flying back today, and here is one of the many stories she has written during her deployment. We thank Barbara for giving of her time and talent and for sharing the stories of how the Red Cross is helping those in need.

 May 18, 2014 – By Barbara Behling, Advanced Public Affairs Team, Harmony Grove, California Wildfire

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Harmony Grove home owner Chris Meredith (left) and Barbara Behling, American Red Cross by Koi pond. Photo by: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross

It was not his home but his Koi pond that grabbed national attention.

The devastating San Diego wildfires of 2014 destroyed 25 of the 29 homes of the Harmony Grove Spiritual Association community. Yet, thirty-six of Chris Meredith’s forty Koi survived the burning embers. While watching news the day of the fire, Chris saw his home of 27-years go up in flames. Knowing the importance of this spiritual community, the fire department connected a generator to pump fresh air and clean water into the murky pond to increase chances of the Koi’s survival. The Koi Club of San Diego agreed to relocate the colorful fish until they can be returned to a rebuilt Harmony Grove.

When the first responders gave an ‘all clear’ for residents to return, the American Red Cross was there too. As Harmony Grove residents began searching through ashes, the pain of what was lost was apparent on their faces. Red Cross mental health workers were on the scene to talk with people, provide comfort and support them as a range of emotions swept over them.

Red Cross caseworkers were on hand to assist with short and longer-term recovery plans. Through a partnership with Campesinos Unidos, short-term lodging and emergency funding was provided for residents who lost their homes and all their belongings. The Red Cross also provided water, food, snacks, comfort kits and other supplies to residents returning to where their homes once stood.

With continued oversight by the Red Cross, each resident will have support for days, weeks and even months to come as Harmony Grove rebuilds its community.  “This is more than a home – it’s our safe haven,” Chris said.

Harmony Grove home owner Chris Meredith (right) and Barbara Behling, American Red Cross.  Photo by: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross

Harmony Grove home owner Chris Meredith (right) and Barbara Behling, American Red Cross. Photo by: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross

Many of the residents were philosophical about the losses, emotionally supported by the spirituality of the community.  “With a wooden house and deck and surrounded by trees, it’s not a good combination. We are simply passing through this land and we take the experiences with us,” Chris concluded.

The Red Cross responds to nearly 62,000 residential fires a year and has trained disaster responders available to respond to disasters large and small.

The American Red Cross provides all their services as a gift to the American people from the American people.  If you would like to help us with a financial gift and learn about fire prevention, readiness and tips for disaster recovery please visit www.redcross.org.

 

 

 

2012 Disaster Response Statistics

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Red Cross Helping Thousands Affected by Wildfires in the West, Flooding in Florida

Cheyenne Mountain High School Shelter, Colorado Springs, CO Photo Credit: Catherine Barde/American Red Cross

WASHINGTON, Wednesday, June 27, 2012 — The American Red Cross is providing critical help to thousands of people affected by the raging wildfires in the west and the massive flooding in Florida from Tropical Depression Debby.

Ten Red Cross shelters were open Tuesday night in Colorado, Utah and Montana where several wildfires are burning out of control. In Colorado, nearly 300 trained Red Cross disaster workers are supporting relief efforts where the fires are threatening as many as 20,000 homes.

Nearly 200 Red Cross disaster workers are helping in Florida, where 11 shelters were open overnight. Tropical Depression Debby has dumped as much as ten inches of rain on most of the state, with some areas getting up to 25 inches of rain. Truckloads of additional relief supplies are on the way to Florida and 20 response vehicles are ready to start distributing items to help as the clean-up begins there.

Red Cross workers have served more than 32,000 meals and snacks to people affected by the wildfires and flooding, have made almost 3,300 health and mental health contacts, and distributed more than 4,300 relief items.

“Thousands have been impacted by these disasters and the Red Cross is giving them a safe place to stay, food to eat and a shoulder to lean on,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “We are expanding our efforts to help the growing number of people affected by the fires in the west and are ready to distribute the tools and other resources people will need to begin the clean-up in Florida as the flood waters recede.”

HOW PEOPLE CAN HELP Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting www.redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. People can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243,Washington, DC 20013.

HOW TO FIND RED CROSS SHELTERS People who have been forced to evacuate can find out where Red Cross shelters are open by going to www.redcross.org or accessing the free Red Cross phone app. Both are refreshed with updated information every 30 minutes. Residents can also monitor local media—radio, newspaper and television—to find out where local shelters are located.

REGISTER ON SAFE AND WELL The Red Cross Safe and Well website is also available. People affected by the fires and flooding can access the site and let loved ones know where they are. There are several ways to register on Safe and Well, or search for a loved one. From a computer, visit redcross.org; from a smart phone, visit www.redcross.org/safeandwell or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to be connected with one’s local Red Cross chapter.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

American Red Cross Responds Across the Country to Wildfires, Floods and Tornadoes

Dozens of shelters open to support affected residents

WASHINGTON, September 6, 2011 — The American Red Cross provided food and shelter for more than 1,000 people around the country Monday night from multiple disasters, including residents impacted by wildfires in Texas and Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, which left severe weather in its wake over the Labor Day weekend.

In Texas, more than 450 residents spent Monday night in 10 Red Cross shelters as wildfires burned hundreds of homes and forced residents to evacuate. The Red Cross disaster response in Texas now joins multiple other Red Cross operations underway across the U.S. in response to floods, other wildfires and tornadoes.

Tornadoes spawned by remnants of Lee damaged homes and caused evacuations in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee on Monday, leading the Red Cross to open shelters in all three states. Red Cross shelters were also opened in Louisiana and Mississippi as Lee dumped torrential rain on the Gulf Coast. Heavy rains and extensive flooding are expected to continue as Lee’s remnants expand northeast into the Tennessee Valley and central Appalachian mountains through Tuesday.    

The Red Cross is also continuing to help people impacted by Hurricane Irene. To date, the Red Cross has served more than 1.6 million meals and snacks and provided approximately 58,000 overnight shelter stays since the storm made landfall on August 27. The Red Cross is also distributing supplies to help residents who are cleaning up homes damaged by Irene’s wind, rain and floods. So far, the Red Cross has given out more than 516,000 relief items such as hygiene kits, mops, brooms, tarps, work gloves and coolers.

“Right now our focus is making sure people forced from their homes by floods and wildfires have a safe place to stay and a good meal,” said Charley Shimanski, Red Cross senior vice president of disaster services. “The Red Cross works year-round to be prepared to help people affected by emergencies, and that’s why we’re able to respond to so many disasters at one time.”

The Red Cross currently has disaster relief operations active in more than a dozen states, and current estimates for Red Cross relief for Hurricane Irene alone are from $10 million to $15 million.

Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; you can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross,P.O. Box 37243,Washington,DC20013.

 About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.