Oak Fire: Red Cross volunteers helping more than 50 evacuees

Tuesday, July 26, 2022
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Classrooms at Mariposa Elementary School have been converted into rooms for evacuees of the Oak Fire.

MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Classrooms at Mariposa Elementary School have been converted into rooms for evacuees of the Oak Fire.

More than 50 people, adults and kids, are staying at the American Red Cross evacuation shelter. In addition, around 200 pets are being cared for on-site by the Mariposa County SPCA.

"We're providing whatever people need," said David Wagner, a Red Cross spokesman.

RELATED: Oak Fire: Crews reach 10% containment, acreage grows to 16,791

One evacuee told Action News she was not prepared, and wishes she had more time.

"I was like wow, I've got to really go. This is real. I don't have any time to think about what I want to grab... I didn't grab a lot of stuff, I wish I did," said Joy Cummings.

Many families at the evacuation shelter were left wondering if their homes will still be standing when they return.

New Mariposa residents Linda and Aubrey Brown were just at a fire prevention meeting a few weeks ago, prompting them to prepare for this wildfire season.

The Browns jumped into action, packing their suitcases and supplies.

They say that meeting and their neighbors were their saving grace.

"I guess you have to pay a price to be in paradise these days, so we just did what every other neighbor told us you have to do - to be ready and prepared. And this one came super fast," they said.

Richard and Leonor Perez were also prepared.

Despite living in Mariposa County for 40 years, this is their first evacuation.

They said while they pray their dream home is safe, they are thankful to be ok.

Red Cross volunteers work 12-hour shifts to help evacuees feel at home.

The organization is working with local restaurants to provide people three meals a day, which is why monetary donations are highly encouraged.

Volunteers are also finding items evacuees may have left at home, such as clothes or medical devices.

"Another man left without his CPAP machine and he hasn't been able to sleep, so we found a CPAP machine for him," Wagner said.

RELATED: California Wildfire Tracker

The volunteers have a genuine passion for helping those affected by a natural disaster.

"We come and meet people on their worst possible day, try to give them a little bit of comfort and hopefully a little bit of support," explained volunteer Michael McGhee.

He came up from Ventura County and plans to be at the shelter for the next few weeks, or until the evacuation shelter closes.

"We walk away knowing we made a difference in people's lives, and you can't ask for a better experience than that," McGhee said.

RELATED: Central California Air Quality Levels

The evacuation shelter will remain open until the evacuation order expires. Red Cross is in contact with several agencies, which will then provide guidance on the possibility of a second shelter opening. Volunteers are currently on standby, in the event another shelter needs to open.

To donate to the Red Cross, visit their website.

For the latest developments, photos and videos on the Oak Fire, click here.