The American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter has responded to five wildfires in the past month, providing assistance to hundreds of people across Arizona.
For the Doce Fire, Bicycle Fire, Yarnell Hill Fire, Dean Peak Fire and Shipman Fire, the Red Cross distributed 60,226 meals and snacks, 39,853 bulk items and 328 comfort kits. It made 997 health services contacts and 623 mental health contacts, provided 331 overnight stays and processed 239 Safe and Well registrations. The Red Cross utilized 685 personnel and 35 emergency response vehicles.
In addition to opening six shelters — in Prescott, Payson, Wickenburg, Kingman and Kearny — for the five blazes, the Red Cross operated a recovery center at the Yarnell Community Presbyterian Church to provide resources to Yarnell residents. At the recovery center, meals, snacks and water were served; ice and cleaning supplies were distributed; nurses replaced medications, eyeglasses and contacts; and mental health volunteers offered emotional support and long-term coping strategies.
The Red Cross ran 38 hydration stations during last week’s memorial at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley for the 19 firefighters killed June 30 while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire. The group distributed 100,000 bottles of water to more than 25,000 people watching on TVs outside the arena, along with tissues and sunscreen. It also had spiritual care teams on site.
“I’ve directed countless relief operations around the country for the American Red Cross for many years. This one was different. It was where I live. You can’t help but take it personally,” said Prescott resident Vic Hencken, the Red Cross job director for the operation. “I’ve always been amazed at the generosity of the American public, but Prescott took it to a new level. So many offers of support were made that we couldn’t possibly utilize them all. It makes me proud to be a part of this community.”
About half of the Red Cross personnel used in the operation were Grand Canyon Chapter employees and volunteers and spontaneous volunteers, with the other half comprised of Red Cross national staff and volunteers representing other chapters — some from as far away as Hawaii. In Payson, about 75 percent of the Grand Canyon Chapter’s volunteer base was put into action.
“It’s always nice to be able to help people, and when you’re helping them in sometimes their darkest hour, it really gives you a good feeling that what you’re doing makes a big difference,” said Mike Tomkins, the Grand Canyon Chapter emergency services specialist for Yavapai County. “People don’t realize that we’re in the community every single day. Whether you see us or not, we’re there.”