Red Cross on the job when times get tough
With continuous work and a few rain clouds, crews reached 100 percent containment on the Lighthouse Fire in Southeastern Utah. The blaze, which threatened several archeological sites along the Tavaputs Plateau, also forced the evacuation of a nearby youth camp.
On a much larger scale, the Seeley Fire called for evacuations in several communities. In the case of both fires, it was recreation and mostly summer properties which were threatened. However, the speed at which fire can remove a person from their home demonstrates a vital need. A need which is filled by the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross is self-described as a place where people mobilize to help their neighbors. Each year, victims of some 70,000 disasters turn to more than half a million volunteers and the 35,000 employees of the Red Cross. An average of more than 9 million people a year receive Red Cross training in first aid, water safety and other skills that help save lives. Because of this training, evacuation centers like the Wellington Stake Center, which was designated for the Seeley Fire, can be set up at a moment's notice.
Tina Spencer, working with the American Red Cross since February of this year, was one of the first volunteers on scene as a unit was set up in Wellington. In her relatively short time with the organization, Tina has been out on approximately 25 -30 incidents. While many of those incidents have been single or multi-family residential events, Spencer knew wild land fire season would keep the volunteers all over the state busy.
Spencer reported that the Seeley incident was her first wild land fire but with a dry season ahead, it definitely won't be her last. The rookie Red Cross agent detailed some of the services provided at locations like the Wellington Stake Center.
"We provide shelter, food and information as it is given to us. We do everything we can to make sure that our clients are well informed," explained Spencer. "We also have showers and many other amenities here."
According to Spencer, the evacuation center provides a safe place for those displaced by the fire. It also can be an evacuees only chance at communication with a loved one.
While the Wellington Evacuation Center had only seen a hand full of families come through, Spencer was clear about the vital nature of these centers.
"I worked with a response team in Rose Park, a multi-unit fire," she said. "Within minutes of being set up, we saw 150 individuals who needed our assistance. It's not the size of the fire that determines the amount of devastation. Small fires can be brutal."
In her short career, Spencer has already worked through 25-30 fires, allowing her to see just how much the Red Cross does help.
"During the Seeley fire we had a couple of families that did stay at the center from the time of the evacuation until the block was lifted," said Spencer. "It really doesn't matter how many we help but that fact that we are always there when needed. That is what matters."