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California Wildfire Prompts Swift Response from Red Cross.
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Katie Lawson
October 30, 2006

Officials are confident that the raging wildfire that broke out last week and destroyed more than 40,000 acres of land near Palm Springs, Calif., will be fully contained by Monday evening. The blaze that burned throughout the weekend was fueled by heavy winds. Hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate their homes as firefighters used air tankers, helicopters and bulldozers to fight the blaze.

Officials are still searching for the arsonist believed to have set the fire that prompted California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency for Riverside County.

The Riverside County Chapter of the American Red Cross has been on the scene with many local volunteers providing assistance since the blaze began. Two shelters were opened by the chapter, one at Fellowship of the Pass in Beaumont and the other at Hemet High School in Hemet. These shelters will remain available for evacuees as long as is necessary.

Families displaced by the wildfire and staying at Red Cross shelters were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to return home. On Sunday, Red Cross volunteers distributed water, snacks and masks to residents who were able to return to their homes for a short period of time to gather personal belongings or check on pets. Some found there was little to come home to as the blaze had destroyed at least 30 homes.

The chapter also deployed several emergency response vehicles (ERVs) to the area to distribute water and emergency supplies to families. The Riverside County chapter also has partnered with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians who have delivered hot meals everyday for all fire evacuees and Red Cross volunteers.

“The response from the tribe was instantaneous,” said Pamela Anderson, CEO of the Riverside County Chapter. “We are so grateful for their continued support and commitment to help our friends and neighbors in need, as well as to all Riverside County residents and businesses who have rallied to help."

Today began the next phase in the Red Cross response. Volunteers will begin assessing damages in the area to determine if financial assistance can be provided to evacuees.

To learn how to prevent, prepare for and recover from fires and other types disasters, visit the "Get Prepared" section of Redcross.org or by contacting your local Red Cross chapter.

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 www.redcross.org.

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