Over and over, we’ve seen the dramatic, up-close photos of armies of brave men and women, and tons of equipment battling raging wildfires in the West. Teams of well-trained and highly coordinated “Hot Shot” teams and support personnel assemble from near and far to come together to contain and control these devastating runaway infernos. Some fires are lightning-caused, some a human-caused, but all imperil life and property, displacing residents, their animals and wildlife and destroying wildland.
If you have family and property in a wooded area, you’re very aware of the looming threat of wildfires. Wildfires have already burned more than 1.2 million acres across the nation this year. The combined Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire-the largest fire in New Mexico history-has scorched over 340,000 acres, destroying hundreds of homes in the northern part of the state. Other parts of New Mexico and Arizona have already also experienced destructive, disrupting wildfires.
This summer, staff and volunteers from the Arizona and New Mexico American Red Cross regions have been working with local response officials assisting residents in communities across the states through evacuation shelters – providing meals, health, hygiene and clean-up supplies, emotional support, and family reconnection services. Dwyane “Bubba” Merritt, Red Cross Northeast NM Disaster Program Manager told us Red Cross staff and volunteers served over 700 clients at 4 evacuation shelters just for the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fires – and 5 new shelters recently opened to assist families in New Mexico due to post-fire flooding.
The National Fire Protection Association estimates nearly 45 million American homes are at high risk to damage from wildfire and a growing number of people are living where wildfires are a real risk. Merritt says everyone who lives in a wooded environment knows the inherent dangers, but should reassess their preparations and readiness to hopefully minimize the risk of fire to their property.
Remember, whether you’re living in an urban or suburban location visit the Red Cross website for tips on how to create an evacuation plan. If you already have a plan, update it and review it with family members so everyone knows what to do if an emergency occurs.
Build an emergency kit. If you already have a disaster kit, now is the time to make sure the food and water are still okay to consume and that copies of important documents are up to date.
Be informed. Find out how local officials will contact you during a wildfire emergency and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders.
Download the free Red Cross Emergency app from the Apple Store or Google Play to help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice on wildfires and other emergencies.
During the past fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, the combined Arizona and New Mexico Red Cross regions conducted over 1300 disaster operations, assisting over 2200 families.
People affected by disasters across the country need your help now. You can help people affected by disasters like fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.
Visit redcross.org, call 800-RED-CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. To donate to your neighbors specifically affected by wildfires across the west, please write “western wildfires” in the memo line of a check and mail it with a completed donation form to your local Red Cross chapter.
Ed Alexander, Red Cross Communications Volunteer