COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Palmetto SC Region of the Red Cross and the SC Forestry Commission are sending volunteers to California to help battle wildfires.
Wildfires continue to burn throughout many parts of the state.
Four volunteers from the Red Cross got the call to travel to California on Sunday. Three volunteers left from the Red Cross of Eastern SC Chapter. One volunteer left from the Red Cross of Upstate SC.
While on the ground, Red Cross volunteers will be running shelters and coordinating the supply and distribution of much-needed relief supplies. Right now, more than 1,000 Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground. The Red Cross has opened more than 20 shelters, provided more than 73,000 meals and snacks and distributed more than 18,200 relief supplies.
"South Carolina Red Cross volunteers are jumping into action to help during a devastating disaster," Louise Welch Williams, regional chief executive officer said. "We are so thankful for these willing volunteers, who have paused their personal lives to help others."
Rebecca Jordan, Executive Director of Red Cross Central SC says they will not only be providing supplies, but emotional support as well.
"There may be children that have a lot of fear, so just giving them a place that's comforting, where there's a hug. The immediate need though, just to get them out of harm's way and with the fires, they can pop across and go across the street and go a totally different direction," Jordan said.
The Palmetto SC Region of the Red Cross stands ready to send additional disaster workers, as requested
The South Carolina Forestry Commission says 14 of their personnel will assist in several states including: California, Colorado, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Of that group, four wildland firefighters will be leaving to California and assisting with the Carr and Ferguson fires.
"They'll have fires shooting up canyons and gullies. Some of those flame lengths could reach 65 to 70 foot. A lot of heat that pre-heats the oncoming fuels, which causes the fire to run. A constant wind, that's constantly moving the fire," Andy Johnson with the South Carolina Forestry Commission said.
Because the western and southern fire seasons do not generally overlap, it is customary for Southern state forestry agencies to send its wildland fire personnel on western assignments when requested.
"Imagine leaving your house and spending 16 hours on a fire line and coming back home and doing this every day for 2 or 3 months. I mean these guys are physically exhausted. We're rested, they'll call, we'll go out and lend a hand," Johnson said.
"These deployments are great training opportunities for those who go on what are typically two-week assignments," SCFC Protection Chief Darryl Jones said. "All of our IMT personnel and all of our firefighters undergo regular training for exactly these kinds of special assignments."
The Forestry Commission sends its highly trained personnel out west every year in response to calls for out-of-state assistance, which have continued to grow in recent years.