Red Cross Supports California Wildfire Victims
mobile feeding vans and supplies to provide relief to those affected by
Shilpika Das, Staff Writer, RedCross.org
Tuesday, October 23, 2007 — Raging wildfires continued to
threaten thousands of Southern California residents for the third
straight day as fierce desert winds fueled the inferno.
Blazing fires forced an estimated 320,000 people to evacuate
their homes as firefighters struggled to keep pace with shifting winds
and advancing flames. According to media reports, at least 16 wildfires
have combined to scorch more than 425 square miles of scrubland and
residential property. Low humidity and high temperatures are expected
to further intensify the damage caused by the rapidly spreading fires.
More than 500 Red Cross employees and volunteers have been on
the ground helping with relief efforts since the fires began on Sunday.
More than 3,000 evacuees took refuge in Red Cross shelters—which were
set up in areas outside the threatened neighborhoods—and were comforted
with hot meals and a safe place to sleep. Red Cross mental health
workers were available to provide emotional support and help those
uprooted from their homes deal with their fears and anxieties.
“People are still on edge, knowing that the fire can change direction
at any time,” says Nick Samaniego, public information officer for the
Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Red Cross. “They have been here for
two days now, waiting for news that it's safe to return. They're ready
to go home.”
Samaniego says that despite the gravity and uncertainty of the situation, people have been helpful.
“I've helped with a lot of operations before, but one thing that
really stands out here is the positive atmosphere,” he says. “At one
point, we were stretched thin and the local residents were the first to
jump in and help out. It's great to see that even in their time of
need, they're helping us.”
Help on the Way
As volatile desert winds and intense fires continue to torch the
drought-hit region, the American Red Cross is sending 2,000 shelter
workers and volunteers into the area to help with relief and recovery
efforts. In addition, hundreds of “spontaneous” volunteers are arriving
and being put to work. More than 75 mobile feeding vehicles have
already been dispatched, along with thousands of comfort kits,
blankets, and cots and more than 50,000 prepackaged meals.
Red Cross workers are also distributing water and food to
firefighters and emergency workers in the affected areas. The Red Cross
continues to work with its partners and local authorities to respond to
the needs of those affected by the fires.
People affected by the wildfires are encouraged to register themselves on the Red Cross Safe and Well Website. Family members and friends can log on and search for registered individuals to learn of their whereabouts and status.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by
voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can
help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year
by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief
Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling
and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross
honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a
specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call
1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the
Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross
chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC
20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting