Red Cross volunteers prepared to help Greenwood Fire evacuees
So far the shelter in Babbitt has only had one client, but American Red Cross shelter staff are prepared to care for more if further evacuations are ordered.
The American Red Cross emergency shelter set up in the Babbitt Municipal Center, 71 South Dr., to help people forced to evacuate from the Greenwood Fire has yet to see much use. In fact, as of Thursday, they've had one client stay the night. But shelter managers said that they're prepared to help evacuees looking for a safe place to stay and a place to get food and water through this emergency.
"We’re standing ready to support anyone whose living conditions have been impacted by the fire," said Rod Winters, American Red Cross shelter manager. "The houses that have been evacuated, a lot of them are cabins, not many are residences. So many of them leave and go home or see a friend or family member outside of the evacuation zone. But we're here for others who don't have those alternatives."
The American Red Cross has partnered with St. Louis and Lake counties' health and human services departments to staff the shelter 24/7. So far, the biggest use the shelter serves has been to answer evacuee questions.
"People will call and say, 'I think I have to evacuate, what's available to me?' And we'll let them know what we have to offer them," Winters said. "People seem pretty aware of us, thanks to a lot of info spreading on social media and the press."
While the shelter hasn't received much use, Winter said they've seen an outpouring of support from members of the community. Businesses and individuals have dropped in to offer meals, cookies or to help out with anything the shelter needs.
"Right now, it's pretty early days. But it is pretty gratifying to see the support of the community and the selflessness of the neighbors," Winters said. "Hopefully we'll continue to see that level of support throughout this time because I'm afraid this fire is going to last a while."
The crew of Red Cross volunteers is mostly from northern Minnesota and have served at every kind of disaster from floods to fires to hurricanes across the country. Winters said he's been glad to see the fires not having the same level of devastation as some he's worked on in California.
"On the scale of suffering, we're not seeing the loss of life or structures that we've seen out there," Winters said. "I know it's still a tragedy to lose a cabin that's been in your family for generations and that's not to diminish that loss. But we're also incredibly fortunate in that we have these firefighters out here working as hard as they can to protect lives and properties. We have a lot of day-to-day heroes working here."
Ultimately, Winters said his goal with serving with the Red Cross is to "alleviate human suffering in the face of major disasters."
"This is what we do. We have experience from serving across the country and now we're here to serve in our own backyard," Winters said.