Tag Archives: wildfires

Written by: David Haas

In 2017, the American Red Cross worked harder than ever in its mission “to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers.’

This year Red Crossers delivered more food, relief supplies and shelter stays than the last four years combined. Eastern Pennsylvania volunteers supported many of these efforts, including volunteer deployments for back-to-back-to-back-to-back hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate – the deadliest week of wildfires in California history, and the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas. Learn more about the value of your contribution to 2017 disaster work in this video.

As 2017 comes to a close, Eastern PA Red Cross leaders are preparing a response plan for the devastating and quick-moving wildfires in Southern California, ready to assist local Red Crossers who are opening shelters, and providing food, comfort, and a safe place for thousands of residents displaced from their homes.


The 2017 National Red Cross statistics are staggering.  More than 56,000 disaster workers — 92 percent volunteers — provided help to people affected by 242 significant disasters in 45 states and three territories. This year, the need for emergency shelter soared, with the Red Cross providing twice as many overnight stays than it did during the past four years combined. The Red Cross:

  • Opened 1,100 emergency shelters to provide 658,000 overnight stays
  • Served 13.6 million meals and snacks
  • Distributed 7 million relief items
  • Provided 267,000 health and mental health contacts
  • Supported 624,000 households with recovery assistance

Altogether, Red Cross emergency response vehicles traveled 2.5 million miles to deliver food, relief supplies and support to communities affected by disasters. That’s the same as driving around Earth 103 times.

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“There was someone every step of the way with a red vest on letting us know everything was going to be okay,” said Houston-resident Tabitha Barnes, who received Red Cross services after Hurricane Harvey flooded her home.

As volunteers in this region know, the most common disaster is not a hurricane or flood, but rather a home fire. There were nearly 50,000 home fires in the US this year which required Red Cross assistance, and caseworkers helped 76,000 affected families to recover.  Eastern PA volunteers respond quickly to local fires, including multiple teams that responded to the November 17th fire at the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in West Chester where 140 people were evacuated. Dozens of people wrapped in blankets and sitting in wheelchairs were seen in news reports and being served by the Red Cross at a shelter nearby. The Red Cross House in Philadelphia is another unique resource available to help families and individuals get back on their feet after a house fire with temporary stays.

Eastern PA volunteers also support the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, working to help prevent home fires and save lives. Since the Campaign launched in 2014, 303 lives have been saved, more than 1 million smoke alarms have been installed, and 940,000 youth have been taught about the importance of fire safety. Hear from Rosie Saunders how having a working smoke alarm saved her daughter’s life:

And if you have not done so yet, consider donating blood at year-end when donations decline because of the holidays. Also consider a year-end financial donation. An average of 91 cents of every donated dollar goes to providing food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support and other assistance, as well as supporting the vehicles, warehouses, technology and people that make help possible.


This Sunday, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles play the Denver Broncos. And believe it not, that has created somewhat of a quandary for me. Normally, it’s a no-brainer as to where my loyalties would lie. I’m a lifelong Eagles fan. (It took years of therapy to make that admission BTW.) But being in the disaster business, and working for the Red Cross in particular, it’s not that cut and dry — to the point where I’m actually asking myself, what should my rooting interest be?

I have nothing against the Broncos. I really like Peyton Manning and I like seeing him succeed. Colorado is beautiful. I don’t get to visit it to go skiing nearly enough.  I also have some wonderful Red Cross colleagues in Colorado. But this is the Eagles and if they have any hope of making the playoffs, they need to pull off an upset. So here’s my quandary.

Anyone who has been keeping up with the news, knows Denver and the state of Colorado have been through a lot this summer (and the last year for that matter.) (KUSA-TV story via USA Today). The past few weeks I’ve seen incredible footage of homes being wiped away by flooding, all on the heels of terrible wildfires the past two summers. I’ve read and heard the stories of families who lost their homes to wildfires last summer, just to see them get washed away by flooding this summer. My colleagues in Colorado have friends and neighbors who were directly affected. My heart breaks for the thousands of people who must start over.

Now I realize a football game won’t fix any of that. I realize that it is, in fact, just a game. But history has shown us that sports can play a big role in healing cities and communities affected by tragedy. Think of the impact sports had on New York City (and the country) after 9/11. Who wasn’t pulling for the Yankees in that World Series? Just a few short years after Katrina, no one could deny the positive impact the Saints winning the Super Bowl had on the city’s psyche and economy. After Sandy, the Giants helped NY and NJ mentally recover, at least for a few hours every week. Everyone was a Red Sox and Bruins fan in the weeks following the Boston Marathon bombing. Rooting against those teams was almost sacrilege.

Which brings me back to this Sunday’s Eagles game against the Broncos. If the Eagles were playing the Cowboys, I admit, it may be a different story. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to root for the Cowboys, no matter the circumstance. That’s just a fact of life of someone from Philadelphia. But Denver is a different story.


So what should I do? Let my lifelong love of the Eagles trump my genuine wish for the Broncos, in a small way, help the people of Denver feel better? Or toss my lifelong loyalty aside, this once, and root for a Broncos victory?

Ultimately, I turned to my Red Cross colleagues in Colorado for the answer. I saw through their tweets, photos, videos, and stories that demonstrated very clearly that the people of Colorado “got this.” With the help of agencies like the Red Cross and their fellow citizens, Coloradans are showing an unbelievable and inspiring resilience. Their ability to absorb what has happened and vow to overcome it, with no complaint, is remarkable.

Just like folks in New York, New Orleans, and Boston, Coloradans showed me that they don’t need me to root for their football team in order to feel loved and supported. Adversity brings out the best in us. It  brings out our selflessness. It brings out our love. It brings out our humanity. Those qualities make us winners and Colorado has plenty of all of them.

Go Eagles.

American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chief Communications Officer Dave Schrader spent a week assisting with the national Red Cross response in Arizona. Here are videos detailing just a fraction of what the Red Cross is doing to help a community deal with a disaster and tragedy all at once.
These videos are also featured on The American Red Cross Disaster Online Newsroom.

Red Cross to Provide Shelter to Firefighters Attending Yarnell Memorial

Red Cross Cares for People and Their Pets

Red Cross Response is 2-Pronged

Dave Schrader visits a memorial to the 19 lost fire fighters in Prescott, AZ.

Dave Schrader visits a memorial to the 19 lost firefighters in Prescott, AZ.

Follow along as American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chief Communications Officer, Dave Schrader documents his deployment to Arizona to assist with the national response to the wildfire and firefighter tragedy there. Click on the links to watch Dave’s VLOGs from Arizona.

July 6 – Farewell Prescott

July 6 – Signing off the Job

July 6 – Branding Disaster Response

Emergency Response Vehicles from all over support the response in Arizona.

July 5 – Hello Mr. Senator

Dave with Senator John McCain at Prescott High School

July 5- Animal Therapy for Red Crossers

Dave’s new friends

July 4 – Independence Day in Prescott

July 4 – Inside to the fire Line

Fire crew from Minnesota performs a show and tell for media tour.

July 4 – Close to the fire Line

July 4 – Brainstorming

July 4 – Striving for the Big Time

July 3 – Hail Storm in Prescott

July 3 – Stopping to Edit

July 3 – Inside the Disaster Operation Center

July 2 – Attending a vigil

Vigil at Prescott Highschool


Viewing Danelle Stoppel’s posts on the wildfire situation in Colorado, has helped me learn to an even greater extent the kind of support the Red Cross offers in critical moments. As a new blogger with Red Cross Philly and as a new volunteer still growing acclimated to all the services the Red Cross provides, I was impressed to learn that in the midst of the wildfire crisis, the Red Cross was there also in Colorado providing temporary shelter, handing out supplies, serving meals and otherwise offering supportive services so essential in a crucial time of need.

Scanning through the local newspapers last week is when I first came across coverage of the ravaging wildfires tearing through parts of Colorado. The Philadelphia Daily News printed on June 28, that thousands fled their homes due to the fires. At one point the numbers reached a staggering 30,000 plus people who had been displaced. The Metro’s June 29 –July 1 weekend paper projected the number of homes destroyed in the hundreds. Add to that total, the various structures and buildings burned down in the wildfires’ periphery and the count of destroyed properties climbed by several hundred. Consequently, an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer indicated that the ongoing wildfires, which firefighters and other emergency personnel have worked hard to contain, are the most destructive in Colorado’s state history. 
Reading in the newspapers the massive damage brought about by the wildfires gave me awareness to what was happening in Colorado. Nevertheless, reading Danelle’s posts and viewing the pictures on the Red Cross Philly blog helped me to understand in a more tangible way the amount of effort and hard work that goes into supporting disaster relief situations, the hardships that the volunteers share with the victims, and the camaraderie that bonds the volunteers, workers and the people together during a time of crisis. When you go to the Red Cross Philly About” page and read the first sentence in the About Us” section you’ll see that it mirrors just the thing Danelle and other volunteers were carrying out in Colorado as Red Cross representatives which is “to be in the unique role of serving as the safety net for the American people in their hour of greatest need.” That I’m learning is the essential service the Red Cross provides.

– Jabril Redmond, volunteer

Danelle Stoppel, a Red Cross volunteer with the SEPA chapter, is very experienced with the transition from volunteering at the local level to the national level and understands the ongoing problems that come with traveling through areas devastated by fire. This blog was compiled from a series of text messages sent by Danelle from her recent posting in Colorado Springs.

(Below are the second set of compiled texts. To see the first set,  click here.


July 4th, 2012 – Colorado Springs

Our ERV came upon people who requested our help.  In an area with no reported losses, an elderly couple entered their home to find it completely destroyed by fire and now water damage from the rains.  We helped them with valuables and medicine.  The roof was leaking and the Sheetrock was falling.  We helped them grab what they wanted to save, including an antique painting from Poland, and left the house.  The mayor’s wife and a community leader who is also a roofer mobilized his crew to cover the house since we are now under a flood watch.  Thank God for my Disaster Action Team training on difficult responses, which trained me to look up first and think safety.  My boots did the job again. Please people, no sneakers on DAT! Motto for the day: Red Cross boots on the ground!

Yesterday the new manager arrived. Her name is Janet and she is from Florida.  I quickly briefed her of the events and activities of the past eight days. She arrived with a supervisor named Sharon, also from Florida.  They have worked together on other disaster responses. Janet and Sharon set up their operation and I stepped aside so they could assume command.  My crew of great young people including Karin, Lisa, Michael, Luanna, Walt, Don, Carol, and Ruth are now part of a larger group of thirty people. I will see them tonight at a local party sponsored by Colorado Springs to honor the American Red Cross.

Danelle’s “Psych Six Team”

I am currently riding on an ERV to deliver services to residents who are seeing their homes for the first time. I leave tomorrow for home and I know my chapter is busy with a large fire and the aftermath of strong storms.  I promised American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter pins to many people since it is considered a real find.  Hopefully, my energetic approach to delivering mental health services has been effective during the first phase of this disaster response. Mental health was the first service to arrive in Colorado Springs. See you soon.



Happy 4th of July from Colorado Springs! Kids selling lemonade to raise money for Red Cross

Danelle Stoppel, a Red Cross volunteer with the SEPA chapter is very experienced with the transition from volunteering at the local level to the national level and understands the ongoing problems that come with traveling through areas devastated by fire. This post was compiled from a series of text messages sent by Danelle.


All that is left of a neighborhood in Colorado Springs after the Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo by: Danelle Stoppel

June 29, 2012

Things are moving quickly from local to national.  Fire conditions continue with frequent small fires.  Last night, there was a large meeting at a local college where 345 families were told their houses were destroyed.  Tomorrow families will be bused to their homes, but they cannot get out since fires are still burning.  Disaster recovery centers will open.  I have staffed four shelters and am coordinating local efforts as they interface with national.

June 30, 2012

FEMA has arrived, but families cannot see their houses until Sunday now.  Mental health is now ten strong and includes local chapter members.  I am working with wonderful mental health people from across the country.  I will be housed at headquarters now and have been invited to participate in the strategic plan for this site.  I am working with old friends from deployments in Alabama and Pennsylvania and making new connections everyday.  There is lots of national exposure for mental health due to massive loss. Headquarters is opening away from chapter tomorrow and client case management is starting.

Volunteers in Colorado meet to learn their daily assignments                                            Photo by Danelle Stoppel

July 1, 2012

Today, the Colorado Springs recovery center opened and the American Red Cross provided services in the form of medical, client case management and mental health services.  Many people have lost their homes and their jobs.  One man told me he lost his job when a horse stable burned.  He lived in the canyon and never owned a car.  He needs money for transportation to find a new job.  Many renters have lost everything.  Five shelters are still open but evacuees return home tomorrow and do not know what they will find.  The threat of fire continues due to high temperatures and winds and many bears have moved closer to resort towns to escape the fire. The tap water smells like smoke.

SEPA Volunteer Danelle Stoppel with Colorado Springs ERV driver preparing to visit fire damaged areas

The Salvation Army is providing all food for the shelters. The ERVs arrived today; client case managers and nurses are now relieving local American Red Cross nurses.   I currently supervise 11 mental health personnel and our role will increase to client work and other areas when we are asked to become involved.  Volunteers are working 13 hours a day and we eat dinner together each night. I miss everyone at our Southeastern, PA chapter, but I am proud to represent the Philadelphia area.

Danelle’s texts only give a tiny glimpse into what happens during a major Red Cross relief operation. She and hundreds of other volunteers (including two from SEPA) were called in by our national headquarters to assist local Red Cross volunteers. Danelle’s deployment could last up to 21 days.

SEPA chapter trained Danelle to handle the work she is doing. We are proud of how capable and dedicated our volunteers are. They make it possible for the Red Cross to do what it does.

-Compiled by Lana Pizzo-