Thursday, Dec 08, 2016
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Police & Fire

7 locals to assist wildfire victims

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People displaced by the fires search through piles of donated clothing outside Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Thousands of evacuees took shelter at the stadium, home of the NFL s San Diego Chargers.

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Seven local Red Cross volunteers will arrive in San Diego today to help the hundreds of thousands of California residents whose homes have been evacuated as a result of the wildfires raging across the southern part of the state.

When the volunteers arrive at 10:30 a.m., they will begin working in shelters to help feed those who have been affected, said Diane Dixon, director of readiness and response at the Greater Toledo Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The local volunteers will join more than 2,000 Red Cross volunteers from across the nation and will work in San Diego for about three weeks.

"It's always traumatic for those who lose homes or possessions," Ms. Dixon said. "We help alleviate part of the suffering and be there for them during their greatest need."

Nearly 350,000 homes were ordered evacuated in San Diego County and wildfires have burned more than 1,300 homes and businesses, authorities said.

State officials are still struggling to estimate how many people have fled.

Charlie Gunn, who lives in Ottawa County, is one of the seven local volunteers flying to California today.

Mr. Gunn, 65, has worked with the Red Cross for about four years and volunteered in Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

He will leave from Cleveland on an early morning flight to meet the rest of the Toledo area volunteers in Atlanta. The group will then fly to San Diego.

Mr. Gunn is a retired manager for the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and said he's always enjoyed helping others.

For about three weeks, he helped supply food to churches in Mississippi, which then gave the food to flood victims.

He said several of the victims he met there lost their cars, their jobs, and didn't know where to turn.

"You don't really realize that when these people are talking to you, they have nothing left," Mr. Gunn said.

He said the level of devastation in some natural disasters is unimaginable.

"Once you get there and look at the devastation, it's really unbelievable," he said. "You can't get the full impact by watching it on television."

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