Disaster Alert: Wildfires in California

August 2, 2012

Disaster Alert

California– Two wild land fires in Shasta and Plumas Counties threatened about 100 structures and prompted the evacuation of some residents yesterday.

The ARC of Northeastern California opened 2 shelters for the affected residents.

A wildfire in Riverside affected 1 home, threatened 12 others and prompted a voluntary evacuation within the vicinity yesterday.

The Riverside County Chapter is in process of opening a shelter and provided hydration to first responders. Meals will be provided if required. The chapter is in contact with the County Office of Emergency Management and a liaison is at the incident command post.


Story: “Mean and Nasty” Red Cross Volunteer Helps in Montana

July 23, 2012

84-year-old has never turned down opportunity to assist with disaster relief

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BILLINGS, Mont. – Norma Pilkington is a legend. She’s too humble to say it, but her fellow Red Cross volunteers quickly reach for the word when describing the 84-year-old great, great grandmother from Bloomington, Ill.

The organization is famous for its volunteers, so what makes this lady, who introduces herself as “Mean and nasty,” stand out? Well, to start with, the Montana fire relief effort marks the 92nd time Pilkington has left her loved ones to help others following a disaster.

Since her first relief operation, a flood response in 1996, Pilkington has averaged nearly six deployments a year and normally spends Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and countless other days away from her family. She was in Montana for the birth of her seventh great, great grandchild and also her most recent birthday.

“When the restaurant found out, they gave me 84-percent off my bill,” she said with glee.

The client casework manager has responded to almost every type of disaster including wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and even an ice storm in Texas. “It was like a big saw had come and chopped the trees off,” she said.

Her most memorable Red Cross experience was the first of three deployments she made following 9/11.

About three weeks after the terrorist attack, Pilkington was helping people in the New York area. A lady had waited all day for assistance, but didn’t have the necessary paperwork. Pilkington handed her a phone card and told her to come back the following day.

Upon her arrival, the lady grabbed Norma and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“My mother loves you!” she was told. “She lives in Hong Kong and I didn’t have enough money to call and tell her that my son and I were alive until you gave me the card yesterday.”

Pilkington became involved with the Red Cross after taking an early retirement that she wasn’t ready for. Her pastor suggested disaster relief work and she hasn’t looked back.

“The Red Cross has made my senior years very worthwhile,” said Pilkington, who has never turned down an assignment. “God gives every one of us a certain thing to do and I feel that serving other people is mine.”

Her coworkers would agree.

“She is sharp as a knife, knows casework and does it well,” said John Luong, a client casework supervisor volunteer from Los Angeles. “It was humbling to work with someone who has so much experience and knowledge.”

She also has a great sense of humor. Years ago, her late husband tagged her with the “mean and nasty” call sign while using a ham radio. It’s a moniker she still goes by today.

“People remember you by that,” Pilkington said.

Luong, and presumably many others, would disagree. “She’ll be remembered more for much more than that,” he said.


Fast Facts: Montana Wildfires

July 17, 2012

The following information shows our total service delivery as of July 15, 2012 in Montana:


Story: Red Cross and Roundup: an Alliance for Recovery

July 13, 2012

Roundup, Mont. – It is often said that disasters bring us together, and that certainly holds true for the American Red Cross and citizens of Roundup.

The Dahl fire, which started in late June, brought Red Cross volunteers to town to help with relief efforts.  What they found upon their arrival, was an incredibly resilient community that continues to inspire admiration.

One of the organizations frequently cited as a driving factor behind that resiliency is the Musselshell County Recovery Team, which was founded after severe flooding hit the area in 2011.

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“We knew we needed to form some type of group,” said Linda Picchioni, chair of the MCRT. “There was just too much help that was needed.”

A grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief enabled the MCRT to fund a part-time staff member, which led to volunteers learning skills such as case management, how to work with FEMA and which non-profits, such as the Red Cross, can help following disasters.

Unfortunately, the town needed that knowledge sooner than anyone had anticipated.  “We went from flood recovery to fire recovery,” Picchioni said.

When Red Cross volunteers from around the country arrived in Roundup, they were pointed to the MCRT as a potential partner.  The MCRT noticed how quickly the organization responded and was interested.

“You guys were here the first night.  It was invaluable,” Picchioni said, before adding that Red Cross personnel “have been so personable.”  Fairly quickly, the organizations decided to co-locate their service centers to most effectively reach the people who needed help.

“This whole community should be used as an example,” said Patty O’Hara, a Red Cross client services volunteer from Santa Cruz, Calif. “It has just been extraordinary.”

Karen Dittman, the Red Cross service center supervisor who is also on her sixth disaster deployment, agreed. “This partnership should be a blueprint.”

A blueprint is exactly what the MCRT hopes to offer.  Their ultimate goal is to present a manual to rural communities on how to respond to disasters.

“People need to know how to help, not just that they want to help,” Picchioni said.  “The building blocks have to be in place.”


Press Release: Red Cross Assistance Continues Following Montana Fires

July 11, 2012

Great Falls, MT (July 11, 2012) – With containment declared for the Ash Creek Complex fire in Southeastern Montana, the American Red Cross has closed its remaining shelters, but remains committed to assisting the community though the recovery phase.

Over the next few days, Red Cross workers will continue to canvas areas impacted by the recent fires, meet with those who have been affected and help create recovery plans.

Those who need fire-related assistance should call (800) 272-6668 and ask to speak with the duty officer.

“This is a critical time for the Montanans who have been touched by these fires, but our staff and volunteers are here to help” said Rod Kopp, CEO of the American Red Cross of Montana.  “No one has to experience this disaster alone.”

Since the fires began in late June, the Red Cross has (as of July 9):

  • Opened 11 shelters around Montana
  • Provided nearly 500 overnight stays to evacuees
  • Served more than 14,000 meals and snacks local residents and firefighters
  • Distributed more than 1,500 relief items including hygiene kits and cleaning supplies, such as rakes, and work gloves.
  • Deployed nine emergency response vehicles to assist with mobile feeding, disaster assessment and information.

Those who wish to help support American Red Cross Disaster Relief in Montana and around the world can do so by visiting www.montanaredcross.org, calling (800) 272-6668 or mailing a check to the American Red Cross of Montana, 1300 28th Street South, Great Falls, MT  59405.

If you have items like clothing or furniture to donate, consider instead donating your goods to a charity thrift store that is equipped to clean and store the items; often, the Red Cross works with charity partners in the community to connect disaster-affected residents with these resources. Although your generosity is appreciated, Red Cross is asking everyone to not bring unsolicited goods to shelters.


Story: Red Cross, Local Family Work Together for Disaster Relief

July 11, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross worker Daphne Hart.

Evolving partnership following Montana fires

Montana Wildfires (June - July 2012)

BROADUS, MT – Neighbors take care of each other in Montana, but every so often people need a little extra help, and when a disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is there.

Staff and volunteers from around the country have come to assist with relief efforts following a series of fires that burned nearly 250,000 acres in the southeastern part of the state.

“This is the first time the Red Cross has been here,” said Jan Stevens, whose family homesteaded their Ashland area ranch in 1883. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

It’s also been a partnership. The Stevens family is working with the organization to help distribute food and water to nearly 70 of her neighbors.

“The homes here may literally be miles apart,” said Kyle Miller, a 22-year-old student from Spokane, Wash. who is helping with mobile feeding efforts. “It’s been very helpful to have someone from the community who is willing to help us in this manner.”

In addition to distributing basic necessities to their neighbors, the Stevens Ranch is also a temporary home to the crews battling the Ash Creek Complex blaze. It’s the third time a fire camp has been set up on their property.

Sadly, Stevens thinks it won’t be the last.

“We’re set for a very long season of fires, we usually don’t get started this early,” she said.

Although everyone hopes it won’t be necessary, one thing Miller hopes the community takes away is that they won’t be facing future disasters alone.

“If the fires come back, Red Cross volunteers will come back too.”


Story: Red Cross and service partners provide one stop shopping for clients at Multi-Agency Resource Center in Ft. Collins

July 11, 2012

 This story is written by Red Cross worker Chuck Bennett.

Since the wildfires started forcing evacuations and destroying homes in Northern Colorado on June 9th, the American Red Cross has been busy helping those in need.   Shelters were set up in Estes Park, Laporte, and Loveland.  Once it was deemed safe to return to the fire zones, Red Cross Mobile Response Vehicles delivered a large amount of cleanup supplies, water, and snacks directly to the area.  Mental Health workers and Medical staff went out in the field to deliver support and advice.  Red Cross Client Services provided outreach and continues to evaluate the individual needs of each family that requests assistance.

Clients affected by the wildfires in Northern Colorado currently can go to the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at235 E. Foothills Parkway, Ft. Collins.  There, they can seek assistance from the American Red Cross and many partner agencies including Adventist Community Services, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Samaritan’s Purse, Lions Club,Timberline Church & the Fort Collins Church Network.

First a person affected by the disaster must register with the Red Cross.   Then, they can browse through a huge selection of donated items such as furniture, clothing, and dishes.  They can also request direct assistance with cleanup efforts including ash sifting and removal at their home site, housing needs, safety and wellness information, and a huge variety of other immediate disaster needs.   All these services are provided free of charge to those affected by the Colorado wildfires.

If you have not yet received services from the American Red Cross or it’s partner agencies you are encouraged call 1-800-red-cros or go to the “MARC” in Ft.Collins.   It is in the old Mervin’s building behind the Foothills Mall.  Current hours are 9AM to 6PM Mon to Sat and 12PM-6PM Sun.


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