The Camp Fire in northern California is now 100% contained but the heartbreaking devastation continues for residents of the area. The fire, which incinerated the town of Paradise and other nearby small communities, destroyed more than 13,970 homes and is the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history.
American Red Cross disaster workers have been feeding and sheltering those affected. Case workers are helping them develop recovery plans. Volunteers with the appropriate training and credentials are promote recovery and resilience through mental-health and spiritual care. The Red Cross is also helping people reconnect with loved ones.
Among the more than two dozen local Red Cross disaster workers who have assisted with the response and recovery efforts is Jennifer Bahney, regional communications and marketing director. She tells of the gratitude of one of those whom the Red Cross has helped:
“Mike wrote a note to the Red Cross volunteers: ‘If there is such a thing as the hereafter, and if there are such things as angels, I guarantee you, they will all be wearing red and white vests!’ Mike said that before the disaster, he had neither family or friends, but afterward, he had both, thanks to the Red Cross.”
An important part of the Red Cross disaster response is deploying workers and technology to reconnect individuals as quickly as possible following a disaster or incident. While the Red Cross does not perform search and rescue operations, it does help facilitate communication between separated people through the Safe and Well website, conducts comprehensive searches for individuals, works with unaccompanied minors, and works with partners to resolve reunification-related inquiries.
Kathryn Bowen and her family are among the thousands of disaster survivors who have used Red Cross reunification services. Within hours after escaping the Paradise wildfire, Kathryn and her son were frantically searching for her brother, Randall Sombre. The family became separated while escaping the fire in Paradise.
Not hearing anything for five days, Kathryn lost all hope of finding her brother alive. After seeing a flyer regarding Red Cross Safe and Well, she decided to register. Kathryn learned her brother was at a Red Cross shelter, so she rushed to get there. It was quite a reunion. “I will be forever grateful to the Red Cross,” she says.
FINDING LOVED ONES If someone is looking for loved ones, they can visit the Red Cross Safe and Well website. 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 accessible in Spanish. Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website.
People can also use the “I’m Safe” feature of the Red Cross Emergency App to let loved ones know their status. The Emergency App is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to Red Cross Emergency Apps.
HOW YOU CAN HELP Entire communities and families have been left reeling from these deadly wildfires. Help people affected by the California wildfires by visiting Donate to the Red Cross, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word CAWILDFIRES to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters.