NC Red Cross volunteers aid in California wildfire relief efforts

By: Mark Barber

Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Two American Red Cross volunteers from western North Carolina are deploying to Southern California as wildfires consume thousands of acres and threaten homes in the area.

[Terrifying footage shows California drivers commuting mid-wildfire]

Evacuation has been ordered for more than 200,000 people due to the wildfires, according to officials.

One of the volunteers, Jody Pinion, from Waxhaw, said she’s planning to help people in Los Angeles shelters for a few weeks.

"My heart goes out to the people and I need to go and help," Pinion said. 

Pinion, who flew out Thursday, said this isn’t the first time she’s raced to help people in need. Just a few months ago, she said she went to Florida to aid victims of Hurricane Irma, and she has also flown to Washington before to assist people displaced by fires.

(Jody Pinion)

"I think it's really difficult in a fire because you don't know where it's going to turn, you have to leave in a moment's notice," Pinion said.

Pinion believes she will be stationed in the heart of the danger in Ventura County where many people desperately need hope.

"I'll be directing where the nurses go, where the shelters are, where the needs are greatest," Pinion said. 

The other volunteer, who is from Marion, deployed Wednesday, Red Cross officials said.

[READ MORE: California wildfires force thousands to evacuate]

Three volunteers from western North Carolina have deployed to California so far, and Red Cross representatives said they expect more to start signing up over the next few days.

“Our volunteers are dedicated to helping families when they need it most, whether in their local community or across the country,” said Sheila Crunkleton, executive director of the American Red Cross Southern Piedmont Chapter. “The Red Cross would not be able to fulfill its mission of alleviating human suffering if not for these wonderful volunteers, especially during a year of such unprecedented disasters as this year.”  

Flames from a wildfire loom up over a neighborhood in Santa Paula, Calf., Dec. 4, 2017. Ventura County fire officials say the blaze broke out Monday east of Santa Paula, a city of 30,000 people about 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Megan Diskin/The Ventura County Star AP

Pinion said this year she is seeing people suffering from disasters more than ever before.

"Between August and December, the Red Cross has served more people than in the last five years combined with Irma and Harvey and Maria and other disasters," Pinion said. 

The typical Red Cross deployment lasts two weeks. Pinion said she will more than likely be sleeping in shelters next to displaced families. 

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