pandemic-complicates-relief-efforts-for-wildfire-evacuees

ROSEVILLE (CBS13) — Wildfire evacuees are desperate for answers after weeks away from home.

The American Red Cross typically provides helpful resources and shelter for people affected by wildfire, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization’s response and recovery looks a lot different.

Several evacuees from the Berry Creek community have been moved into hotels in the Roseville area. Because of coronavirus restrictions, the Red Cross is forced to rely on the hotels for shelter.

“A lot of times when you think about the Red Cross we’ve got the basketball gymnasium or the church filled with cots. One of the big changes is that we haven’t really had those big congregate shelters,” Justin Kern with the American Red Cross said.

The mass shelters weren’t just places to sleep. People dropped off clothes, food, and toys for kids, but now the Red Cross is placing evacuees in hotels spread out across Northern California, making it more difficult for people to help.

READ: Victims Of Bear Fire Found In Cars, Roadway; 1 Person Still Missing

Heather Cassell evacuated from the North Complex Fire.

“Here we are two weeks evacuated, no work, no gas money, all of our food spoiled,” Cassell said.

The Red Cross says food distribution also looks a lot different.

“We would be one location, we would have the feeding line, maybe the chaffing dishes, people would come through to get a meal. If we’re able to avoid that and just bring people individual meals, that’s just the route we have to take in an abundance of caution,” Kern said.

Elizabeth Ruppert in Roseville says under the circumstances, she’s doing her best to help out her new neighbors.

“They don’t have access to clothes access to soap just the basic needs,” Roseville resident Elizabeth Ruppert said. “Every hotel around here is completely booked up in the Roseville-Sacramento area of people in need of just basic items: toys, socks, shoes, like clothes.”

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Ruppert says Roseville-area churches and online support groups are a good place to go for anyone who may need a little extra help.

If you’re looking to help wildfire evacuees or get involved, you can contact the American Red Cross online or call 211

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By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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