Youngstown-area Volunteers Head into Smoke and Fire of California

Three American Red Cross volunteers from the Northeast Ohio Region are being deployed to California, where a wildfire has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Randy Liang of Cuyahoga Falls will help support the technology needs of the Red Cross disaster relief operation in Mariposa County, California.

Mark Strausser and Jason Mitman (in video, above) of Youngstown will work with residents who are staying in shelters as a result of the wildfire.

Red Cross workers and partners helping to provide a safe place to stay and three meals a day for hundreds of displaced residents.

“We help people here, at home, every day,” said Mitman, referring to the help Red Cross workers offer to Northeast Ohio residents who experience home fires and other disasters.  “Now I get to help people in California.  This is why I volunteer for the Red Cross.”

Other volunteers from Northeast Ohio may also be deployed to help in the days to come.

For information on volunteer opportunities, visit redcross.org/neo, and click on the Volunteer tab.

Heading out to the movies this weekend?

Wildfire is a phenomena that we don’t really worry about happening here in Northeast Ohio.

However, if you are heading out to see Disney’s new movie, Planes Fire and Rescue, then you may want to arm yourself for the conversation that could follow.

In the movie, Dusty Crophopper (star of the first Planes movie) travels to Piston Peak National Park to train as a firefighter. While there he encounters and fights several wildfires.

Careless use of fire in heavily wooded areas such as a campsite at Piston Peak, combined with drought or dry conditions, dramatically increase the chance of a wildfire. Fire can spread quickly.

A Red Cross Volunteer observes first responders at a Wildfire.

When a wildfire rages, every second counts.

While first responders, like Dusty, control the fire through aerial and ground maneuvering, the American Red Cross establishes shelters and provides food and water to those who were forced to flee their homes. Shelters provide a safe place to stay and volunteers offer support and a caring shoulder. Once it is safe to return to a community, the Red Cross provides trash bags, masks and heavy work gloves to the people who start to shift through the ashes.

The Red Cross may also provide refreshments to the first responders who fight the blazes. (Cab, a cola depicted in the movie, anyone?)

Preparedness is paramount to those who live in areas susceptible to wildfire. That is why the Red Cross developed Wildfire Safety Tips and the Wildfire App.

In our communities, the Red Cross is more likely to respond to a home fire. In Northeast Ohio, we respond to an average 2.5 home fires a night. Some of the steps you can take to prevent this is your own home include:

  • Keep anything that can catch fire—like pot holders, towels, plastic and clothing— away from the stove.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Talk to your children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Teach your children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
  • Once a month check whether each alarm in the home is working properly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Immediately install a new battery if an alarm chirps, warning the battery is low.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home.
  • Make sure everyone knows where to meet outside in case of fire.
  • Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Practice waking up to smoke alarms, low crawling and meeting outside. Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.
  • Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

For more information on home fire prevention and safety, visit our website.

Some of the scenes in Planes Fire and Rescue may be a little worrisome to young viewers. You can assure them that there plenty of specially trained first responders ready to respond to the emergency. And organizations, like the Red Cross, are ready to respond to the people who experience a wildfire or a home fire.