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American Red Cross volunteers prepare for "big" wildfire season

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REDDING, Calif. - Volunteers with the American Red Cross' Northeastern Chapter are gearing up for the 2017 wildfire season.

This is Richard Yoder's 10th year volunteering with the non-profit organization. He has lived in Redding for 43 years and said he's become increasingly more aware of wildfires in the Northstate.

"I would expect that we'll have a big fire season this summer," Yoder said confidently.

He added that the trauma a family typically experiences after losing their home in a wildfire can take intense emotional and mental tolls.

"If you're just looking at a pile of ashes, that's your whole in life in that pile of ashes," he explained.

The American Red Cross' Gold Country regional division is divided into two chapters, the Sierra-Delta Chapter and the Northeastern Chapter. The latter covers 14 counties in Northern California and is split into two territories.

The northern territory includes Shasta, Tehama, Siskyou, Modoc, Lassen and Trinity counties. During the 2016 wildfire season, this territory opened cases for more than 20 families who lost their home in the flames.

Yoder advises families facing a similar situation in 2017 to call the American Red Cross immediately following the disaster.

"We'd expect to be there pretty promptly and then get them through the first two or three days, after which they should get a call from one of our people probably in Sacramento at the regional level," he said. "That call will be asking how are you getting along...what are your needs?"

Whether or not you have insurance, the American Red Cross has a variety of resources available to recovering families. Their partnering agencies, like the Salvation Army, often donate food, clothing and other basic necessities to help kick-start the road to recovery.

However, Yoder said more specific resources often become available when helping children cope with the trauma of losing their home.

"One of the other things we do provide is some mental health counseling and support," he said. "Kids often react differently than adults."

He added that, in some cases, the American Red Cross can assist parents in paying the first or last months rent in order to help a family move into a new apartment or house.

The American Red Cross is looking for more volunteers to assist families during wildfire season. For more information on how you can get involved, click here.

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