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Wildfire Evacuees Look to Red Cross for Help
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Shelters open in California, Arizona and Utah as fires continue to burn
September 1, 2009

The American Red Cross is on the ground in California, continuing to shelter residents ousted from their homes by the raging wildfires.


Overnight more than 120 people escaped the flame, smoke and ash in shelters in California.  Red Cross has also opened shelters in Utah and Arizona in response to wildfire evacuations in those states. 


"We've opened shelters and are ready to help,"said Joe Becker, Red Cross senior vice president for disaster services, "Please obey officials if you are ordered to get out of your home.  These wildfires are dangerous."  

California Station Fire

The Red Cross Southern California Blood Services Region in Pomona reported they were forced to cancel a 300 unit blood drive Tuesday at a high school on the outskirts of the Angeles National Forest fire due to air quality concerns. Anyone wishing to give blood can visit the Region's web site or call 1-800-GIVE LIFE.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the fires have spread through more than 129,000 acres in and around Los Angeles.  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proclaimed a state of emergency in several counties where thousands have been ordered to leave their homes. 

Those affected by the fires can register on the Red Cross Safe and Well web site, an easy way to notify loved ones of their well-being.  People can either place the call themselves, or have someone do it for them.  Registration can be done by visiting www.redcross.org or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). Friends and family can then search for their message by using their phone number or address.

Red Cross offers the following safety tips to keep those in the vicinity of the fires prepared and safe:

  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Follow the instructions of local officials.
  • Back the car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.  Shut the vehicle doors and windows and leave the keys in the ignition.  Close the garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked.  Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
  • Confine pets to one room and make plans to care for them in case of an evacuation order.  Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative's home outside the threatened area.
  • If evacuating, wear sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Take a Disaster Supplies Kit with you.
  • Lock the house when leaving.
  • Tell someone your time of departure and destination.
  • Choose a route away from the fires and watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
  • Take prescription and emergency medication, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, important documents and other comfort items with you.  Don't forget special items for children and infants such as diapers, formula, and toys.  Remember special items for family members who are elderly or disabled.

If there is enough time:

  • Close windows, vents, doors, blinds and heavy drapes.  Remove lightweight curtains.
  • Shut off gas at the meter and turn off pilot lights.
  • Open the fireplace damper and close fireplace screens.
  • Move flammable furniture into the center of the home, away from windows and sliding-glass doors.
  • Turn a light on in each room to make the home more visible in heavy smoke.
  • Seal attic and ground vents outside the home.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Place combustible patio furniture inside.
  • Connect the garden hose to outside spigots.
  • Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.

Help people affected by disasters like the current wildfires, by donating to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.  On those rare occasions when donations exceed Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for disasters and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to victims of all disasters. Call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) 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 redcross.org.

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.

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