Red Cross commemorates one year since Woolsey Fire

Nonprofit thanks 700 volunteers and community partners who supported relief effort

ON Friday, November 8, the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region gathered volunteers, staff, community partners and donors to thank them for their work during the Woolsey Fire. The fire, which tore through Los Angeles and Ventura counties in November 2019, burned 96,000 acres and affected more than 1,800 homes, prompting the Red Cross in Los Angeles to open four shelters for more than 3,000 residents.

“During their darkest days, when thousands of Californians didn’t have so much as a home or bed to call their own, the Red Cross was there for them,” said Jarrett Barrios, CEO of the Red Cross Los Angeles Region. “While the heartbreak was undeniable, what struck me most was the amazing resilience of this community – how people came together to support the men, women and children whose lives were devastated by this tragedy.”

The commemoration featured volunteers, community partners and board members that spoke about how the Woolsey Fire personally affected them. Peter Laugharn, CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, spoke about the difficult situation he found himself in informing his staff about evacuating to then returning to the Agoura Hills campus and opening it as a resource center in partnership with FEMA.

Red Cross disaster casework volunteer Nancy Hall recalled being out to dinner with her husband celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary when news of the Woolsey fire reached them and stepping into the shelter to help residents find the best resources.

Bill Walrath, an executive at Farmers Insurance and Red Cross board member, first evacuated the area with this family traveling all the way to Anaheim before signing back up to help with the month-long disaster response.

The stories reflect only a few of the more than 700 Red Cross volunteers who worked tirelessly to help neighbors devastated by the Woolsey Fire one year ago.

“While the recovery process is still far from over, I could not be more proud of all the our incredible disaster workers and the aid they were able to offer to those affected during this incredibly difficult time,” said Marium F. Mohiuddin, the Red Cross LA Communications Director. “Our selfless volunteers, who worked around the clock to ensure every last person was provided for, truly embody the spirit of this organization, and proved yet again why the Red Cross is a symbol for hope around the world.”

During the 2018 Woolsey fire response, the Red Cross and its partners:

  Provided more than 3,000 overnight shelter stays

  Served more than 20,000 meals and snacks

  Distributed more than 15,000 relief items

  Made more than 4,000 individual care contacts made

In 2019, California is once again in the thick of wildfire season and already has faced back-to-back wildfires including the Saddleridge, Tick and Getty fires in Los Angeles, threatening homes and forcing thousands to evacuate. Red Cross disaster workers have sprang into action helping to provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support and other assistance to those affected. The Red Cross wants to remind all Angelenos that though the weather may be getting cooler, it’s important to get a kit, make a plan and be informed.

Wildfire safety

A wildfire can spread very quickly, leaving you little time to get to safety. Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and obey all evacuation orders from officials:

  Back your car into the garage or park it outside, facing the direction of your evacuation route.

  Confine pets to one room, so you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.

  Limit exposure to smoke and dust. Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.

  Don’t use anything that burns, such as candles, fire places and gas stoves.

  If you’re trapped outdoors, crouch in a pond, river or pool.

  Don’t put wet clothing or bandanas over your mouth or nose, as moist air can cause more damage to your airway than dry air at the same temperature.

  If there is no body of water, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks. Lie flat, face down, and cover your body with soil. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching your lungs or inhaling smoke.

  Don’t return home until officials say it’s safe to do so.

  Inspect the roof immediately, and extinguish any sparks or embers. Wildfires may have left embers that could reignite.

  Check your home for embers that could cause fires. Look for signs of a fire including smoke or sparks.

  Avoid damaged or downed power lines, poles and wires.

Keep your animals under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn them.

  Wet down debris to minimize breathing in dust particles.

  Wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles.

  Throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.

Download Red Cross App

Red Cross Emergency App provides real-time alerts, open shelters and expert advice on wildfires. The Emergency App also includes an “I’m Safe” feature that help people check on loved ones. Search “American Red Cross” in app stores, or go to redcross.org/apps.

Visit redcross.org/wildfire for full wildfire safety information. 

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