WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2017 — More wildfires broke out overnight in Southern California, pushing the number of people forced to leave their homes to nearly 200,000. In the midst of the devastation, the American Red Cross is making sure those affected have a safe place to stay, food to eat and a shoulder to lean on.
Overnight about 615 people took refuge from the fires in 13 Red Cross and community shelters. People coming to Red Cross shelters can expect hot meals, comfort and the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and get information. Red Cross disaster workers are also providing health services such as replacing lost medications and eyeglasses, emotional support and spiritual care to people whose lives have been turned upside down by these wildfires.
“The situation is rapidly evolving with new fires starting and new evacuation orders seemingly every hour. And the threat isn’t over. The region faces extreme fire danger for the next several days. It’s our objective to be fully prepared to help where needed,” explained Brad Kieserman, vice president, Disaster Operations and Logistics for the Red Cross. “Right now, Red Cross volunteers are working alongside partners to ensure everyone gets the best possible help during this challenging time.”
The Governor of California has declared a State of Emergency. The fires have already destroyed an estimated 430 homes and are threatening as many as 25,000 additional homes. With seven large fires now burning, more than 140,000 acres have been destroyed. Local power, water, transportation and communication infrastructures are being threatened by the seven fires and impacting four counties with a total population of more than 14 million people.
HOW TO FIND A SHELTER The Red Cross urges everyone to follow evacuation orders from local law enforcement and to have an emergency kit ready to go. If someone needs to find a shelter or other help, they should follow their local media or go to redcross.org and check the shelter map. People can also find a shelter by downloading the free Red Cross Emergency App, which also puts wildfire safety tips at their fingertips. The app is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.
Everyone is welcome at Red Cross shelters. The Red Cross delivers help to whoever needs it regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or citizenship status. The Red Cross is a charity, not a government agency, and people who have disaster-caused needs do not need to be American citizens to access Red Cross services. The Red Cross is working with partners to provide care for evacuated pets. Anyone who needs a safe place to stay should come to an evacuation shelter, and suitable accommodations will be found for household pets. Service animals and therapy pets are welcome at Red Cross shelters.
WILDFIRE SAFETY People should listen to their local media for updates on the fire and be ready to leave quickly. Other wildfire safety steps include:
- Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing your direction of escape.
- Keep your pets in one room so you can find them quickly if you have to evacuate.
- Arrange for a temporary place to stay outside the threatened area.
- Keep your indoor air clean – close windows and doors to prevent the smoke outside from getting in your home.
- Use the recycle mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to be inside, seek shelter somewhere else.
- If smoke levels are high, don’t use anything that burns and adds to air pollution inside such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves.
STAY CONNECTED WITH LOVED ONES Visit 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. The site is always available, open to the public and available in Spanish. Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website. Registrations can also be completed by texting SAFE to 78876.
You can also use the “I’m Safe” feature of the Red Cross Emergency App to let loved ones know your status.
HOW YOU CAN HELP You can help people affected by disasters big and small, like wildfires and countless other crises, by making a donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from disasters big and small. Call, click, or text to give: visit redcross.org, call 1-800 RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 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 cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.
Rod is a blogger, writer, filmmaker, photographer, daydreamer who likes to cook. Rod produces and directs the web series, CUPIC: Diary of an Investigator. He is also the editor, producer and administrator of TNC Network.