‘You can see the ash falling’: Virginia Red Cross volunteers help evacuees during devastating wildfires


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With dozens of devastating wildfires raging simultaneously on the West Coast, Red Cross Virginia has sent 31 volunteers to be deployed on the ground across multiple disaster areas.

Six of those volunteers are from the Richmond area and they join 1,100 other Red Cross disaster workers from around the nation that are supporting evacuees both on the ground and virtually.

Wildfires have burned more than five million acres of land in the past few weeks — forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate along the West Coast.

Wildfires have also caused destruction to parts of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

The American Red Cross has currently provided more than 9,600 people with safe refuge within lodging and shelters.

In Oregon, many fires are still not contained with more than one million acres already burned.

A Richmond resident that is currently stationed in Portland with Red Cross describes the scene as “many fires merging into big fires.”

Ellen White showed 8News the ominous view of a mixture of smoke and fog behind her during a FaceTime interview.

“You can see the ash falling,” White said. “I had a choice to go to California or Oregon. I said I wanted to go where they really needed us. And it was Oregon.”

And that ash has also been seen as far as the East Coast.

White says she wears two masks every day to protect herself not only from COVID-19, but also the hazardous ash in the air.

Volunteers knew what they were signing up for before they arrived, White added.

“We accepted that. We knew coming here it could be hazardous. So we still came,” White said.

Ellen White (Left) on her way to Portland — then joined 8News on FaceTime to show the smog in the area.

She says that there are 17 supply trucks that are being used to assist people seeking shelter from the damaging wildfires.

She said clean-up kits are provided for evacuated families upon returning home.

Ellen White says she loves to help people — and says it is just as simple as that.

“This is what I love doing,” she said. “Helping people. Regardless of where you from, what culture you are, what town, what city. We pack our bags and we boots on the ground.”

The American Red Cross is seeking donations for disaster relief funds that can make a difference to volunteers and evacuees along the West Coast.


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