The flames on Mount Charleston brought more than 1,000 responders, burned more than 27,000 acres and displaced more than 500 residents for almost two weeks.
While firefighters fought the blaze, almost 200 American Red Cross volunteers were seeing to the needs of residents. Officials said the fire, the worst natural disaster in the county many could recall, also produced one of the largest responses in donations and offers of help.
“The outpouring of the locals has been incredible,” Southern Nevada Red Cross spokesman Lloyd Ziel said. “Right now we have full time people just fielding the offers of good will.”
Fire Incident Commander Rich Harvey even urged locals to stop bringing non-monetary donations because they were inundated with water, Gatorade and food.
Residents of Trout and Lovell canyons returned home Sunday. Hafen Elementary School, the shelter set up in Pahrump, was cleaned and volunteers prepared to leave. Lee Canyon residents went home Monday, and officials expect to restore access to Kyle Canyon on Wednesday.
“We’re making plans for re-entry,” Ziel said last Thursday, before any displaced residents were allowed to return. “There are trucks loaded and ready to go with something called re-entry kits. Garbage bags, masks, gloves, buckets, mops, bleach, cleaning supplies, shovels, rakes, etc.”
The Red Cross set up shelters in Pahrump and Las Vegas when residents were told to evacuate on July 4. When lodging needs were met, the shelters were turned into information reception centers.
For residents like Ruth Kizer, the shelter-turned-reception center was a place to find peace and solidarity with other residents.
“If a community is going through an emergency, those reception centers are so important for people to be able to go to for information,” Ziel said. “It’s a meeting point, like the old watering hole. It’s a place for people to just get their heads around their feelings and start to heal.”
Aaron Gach spent so much time at the shelter, he became an unofficial volunteer, unloading pallets of water and putting together care packages for other displaced residents.
“The Red Cross affects us all,” said Gach, whose RV has been parked at the Las Vegas shelter since July 4. “The Red Cross has been amazing.”
The Salvation Army, working with the Red Cross, delivered donations to Pahrump while the field office in Las Vegas handled the influx of donations.
Even as the Carpenter 1 Fire continued, however, the Red Cross still had other obligations.
“What people don’t realize in town here, the American Red Cross responds to a home fire every 23 hours,” Ziel said. “Every day a volunteer helps a family.”
On Thursday, 30 people found themselves in need after a fire at the Bella Estates apartments at 5101 E. Twain Ave., near Nellis Boulevard.
Ziel said most local Red Cross resources are devoted to house fire response.
The almost 900 Southern Nevada volunteers provide clothing, toiletries and food to victims. So far this year, more than 600 people have received aid. In 2012, the agency helped 907 people.
“We deliver assistance based on when they can use it,” Southern Nevada Red Cross CEO Scott Emerson said.
A typical fire-response case is normally completed in two weeks by case workers, though there is no limit to how much aid they will deliver, Emerson said.
In the first days after a fire, victims receive a debit card for immediate necessities, such as a few changes of clothes, toiletries, medicines and food. The Red Cross provides more money based on need.
“We have a tempered response to (the Mount Charleston fire). Everything we do, we look at in the name of the client. What do they need?” Ziel said. “We don’t look at the cause, we don’t look at the cost, we don’t look at who it’s coming from. We look at the need. We don’t want to waste.”
Largely funded by individual donors, The Red Cross typically requests monetary donations rather than individual items.
“It’s difficult getting the message out to folks that we need constant support,” Emerson said. “Not everything that we do makes the news. The larger the event, the more obvious the need.”
The Red Cross of Southern Nevada also provides blood services, disaster preparedness, and first aid and CPR training and education. They also have international services to refugees and give aid to the armed forces.
Founded by Clara Barton, the original American Red Cross mission was to help wounded Civil War soldiers.
Today, volunteers provide death notifications to families, help with re-integration into civilian life and help at the Veterans Affairs hospital.
Last year, the Red Cross partnered with MGM Resorts International to launch “Boots to Business,” which helps place veterans in jobs and provides help with resume writing and a mentor network.
The program opened last year and on June 26 the partners announced the program would be extended to four other locations -- Detroit, Biloxi, Miss., Springfield, Mass., and Fort Washington, Md.
“We’re kind of like an octopus, having all of these tentacles out there to build relationships,” Emerson said. “We have relationships at the federal level and the local level. We activate that global reach whenever we need to. What we handle is bringing folks together and we’re really good at that.”
Contact Rochel Leah Goldblatt at email@example.com or 702-383-0381.