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Red Cross seeks shelter volunteers

In preparation for a potentially disastrous fire season, American Red Cross of the Central Valley is seeking shelter volunteers in Eastern Madera County, with a recruitment event scheduled for 6 p.m., today, May 12, at the Yosemite Gateway Association of Realtors office.

Katrina Poitras, Disaster Program Manager for Red Cross in the Madera, Mariposa, and Merced areas, said the night will help bolster the ranks should a shelter ever be needed.

“We’re expecting this to be a very busy fire season where we may need to open multiple shelters across multiple counties at the same time,” Poitras said. “So we need as many local volunteers as we can get.”

Poitras said the recruitment night will help fast track potential volunteers through a vetting system, which requires a background check before they can help at any shelter.

“We want people to be ready so if a disaster does happen, they’re already vetted and can go straight to the shelter to help,” Poitras said. “If you show up without that, you can’t start working until you go through that vetting process.”

The Realtors office is located near the Sears Hometown Store, at 40298 Junction Drive in Oakhurst.

Poitras said should a wildfire cause emergency evacuations throughout the Mountain Area, Red Cross will first establish a Resource Evacuation Center in the disaster area to register evacuees and take details on what their needs may be.

“That is the place we want people to go to first,” Poitras said, “so we can get them the most immediate information and figure out how best to handle the situation.

“We want people to know that if we establish an overnight shelter, it may be further out than we have had in the past, in order to keep people safe,” Poitras continued. “Evacuees will still be close enough to the disaster but far enough to keep them out of harm’s way.”

Poitras said people shouldn’t forget their animals. She said Red Cross works closely with Central California Animal Disaster Team, which will open a pet shelter close to any shelter established by Red Cross.

“This way, all family members with both two and four legs can stay together,” Poitras said.

Poitras also recommended families be prepared in case they need to evacuate.

“We are encouraging people to be prepared and be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” Poitras said. “When a sheriff’s deputy knocks on your door, that’s not the time to start getting ready. Make sure you’re prepared ahead of time.”

A guide is available by visiting redcross.org and clicking on the “get assistance” button.

Details: Katrina Poitras, katrina.poitras@redcross.org, (559) 455-1000.

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