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Lassen County Red Cross: When Disaster Hits Home

A SusanvilleStuff Feature
by Melissa Blosser, Assistant Editor

It has been over 10 years since Irene Trout and Donna Pritchard saw the importance of having a volunteer base for Red Cross in Lassen County. Since that time the current Lassen County Red Cross Disaster Manager, Sophia Wages, has seen many things change.

“Volunteers come and go, and due to the remoteness of our area, trainings from certificated personnel become a challenge,” said Wages.

With the recent fires in our area, Red Cross is an organization that is often called upon to help those in need.  As in the recent Litchfield fire, when people have been displaced from their homes due to flooding, fire, etc., Red Cross assistance is available 365 days a year, day and night, offering short-term food, clothing, and shelter, as well as emotional support in order to begin recovering from their loss.

“We have wonderful partners in the Crossroad Ministries, Salvation Army, local sororities, and individuals who have helped many of our Lassen County residents throughout the years, when needed,” said Wages.   “It is amazing how our community comes together when disaster strikes at any level.”

When a mandatory evacuation is declared and depending on the amount of families, Office of Emergency Services (OES) Director Dave Junette calls Red Cross to open a Shelter in cases where multiple family homes are being threatened.   There is constant communication between the Red Cross the OES Officer to determine whether there is a need to open a Shelter.

“Sophia is the heart and soul of the Lassen County Red Cross,” said Dave Junette, who is also a board member of the Northern California Red Cross. “If you volunteer for Red Cross, you can not only help your community you have an opportunity to travel and help people nationally,” he said.

Once the need has been determined by OES, Red Cross’s agreements to house residents with the local schools, churches, and Fairgrounds are put in place, as well as agreements with local fast food restaurants and Susanville IGA.   Red Cross Volunteers and the Lassen County Health Department are then activated via a telephone tree and the Red Cross Shelter van is brought to the site.

The Shelter van has the capability for 125 persons for overnight stay.

Devestating scenes like this one, at Tuesday night's Cut-Off Fire near Litchfield, are all too common during fire season in Lassen County. Before the flames are out local Red Cross representatives will be on-scene providing aid and comfort.

All clients that remain in the shelter must adhere the Red Cross guidelines and all client information remains confidential when registering.  Pets are not allowed in the Shelter except for guide dogs.  However, thanks to many of our caring community members, they have reliable individuals who offer their residences to house the pets.

Over the years, Red Cross has opened a Shelter once at Lassen High School due to flooding and fortunately, it was never utilized.

“I would like to extend my gratitude to all of the Lassen County volunteer fire departments, Susanville Fire Department, Susanville Interagency Fire Center (SIFC) Susanville Police Department, Lassen County Sheriff’s Department for all of their assistance to Red Cross,” said Wages.   “The community could not be kept up to the minute of disaster-related incidents,  if it weren’t for the efforts of, local radio stations, and the newspaper,”said Wages. “We have our area and that is the beauty of living in a small rural community.”

Red Cross now has a full-time staff person who lives in the Redding area (Cross Coordinator Erik Kiltz), who is now available to provide monthly trainings for individuals who would like to become a Red Cross volunteer.   After the fires settle, a more permanent training schedule will be provided.

To become a Red Cross volunteer or obtain more information, call Sophia Wages, Lassen County Disaster Manager at 257-3402.  If you need Red Cross assistance, contact:  1-855-891-7325.


Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso Publisher/Editor
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