Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Within the last 10 days, the American Red Cross in Utah has responded and attended to the needs of firefighters and evacuees across Utah in the wake of the abnormally high number of fires.
The Red Cross provided 4,500 meals and snacks and attended to 1,200 evacuees in just the past 10 days. However, even the Red Cross may need assistance once the summer season hits its stride.
"There is no way to predict the need for this summer," said Teresa Zundel, director of communications for the American Red Cross Utah Region.
The 10-day endurance test for the Red Cross began June 22 in Saratoga Springs. It opened and operated shelters in Herriman, Mount Pleasant, Fairview, Delta and Wellington after fires broke out in those areas.
Herriman High School was originally used as a makeshift shelter for the Rose Crest Fire in Herriman. But when an apartment fire in West Valley City displaced 17 residents Saturday, the Red Cross decided to keep the high school open for them, Zundel said. The Red Cross generally opens a shelter when 10 or more people are displaced.
The community came out and showed its support by offering to volunteer. But Zundel said if volunteers get trained and certified by the Red Cross before before volunteering, it provides them with a big advantage.
"If they (volunteers) are trained, they know the rules and know how to run the center," she said.
Such training is provided for free and also allows the Red Cross to run background checks on the volunteers for its protection and for those it serves.
Zundel said there are also unforeseen scenarios that the organization faces each summer because it can't always predict what the needs may be. For example, if several babies are evacuated during an emergency situation, the Red Cross may not always have enough baby formula or other amenities on hand.
Donations to the disaster relief fund can greatly help the organization avoid those types of scenarios.
With the majority of the Utah fires contained for now, the Red Cross can now assess the cost of the past 10 days and begin to replenish for the upcoming fire season, she said.
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