Displaced by forest fires, refugee work, waiting in the midst of uncertainty

SAN FRANCISCO – over the past week Robert Tierney Jr. is the registration of patients in a Northern California hospital in the morning and the check of the possible rental after work, try to count his blessings, although his house is one of the more than 1000 destroyed in a deadly flu.

Tierney is one of dozens of people, including doctors, nurses, and others, at the Dignity Health Mercy Medical Center in Redding to keep the hospital running despite the loss of their homes to the flames.

Tierney, 57, choked up briefly as he recalled the moment he learned of a child on a bike that his house and possessions were gone, save for a wedding dress and various hampers of clothes he picked up for leaving his near 225 miles (360 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

“I have to get to work. My wife is handicapped and I have a life and I have a great job and it is my pleasure to be here, so I’m just really happy I have a job to come to in a time like this,” he said Thursday.

Mike Mangas, spokesperson for the Dignity of the Health of the North State, said 67 employees and volunteers in the hospital are without shelter, their homes destroyed or damaged to occupy.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “There are people sleeping on the floor in the hospital, people sleeping with relatives, or in hotels as they can get.”

For many Californians, wildfire season has turned in a series of revolutions beginning with the terror of the approach of the flames. The experience soon gives way to an anxious scramble for shelter, followed by tedious, but exciting days to wait.

Police, doctors and social workers often do not have much time to mourn, as they deal with the chaos of evacuations, and the danger. The head of the police in Rescue and a sheriff’s deputy in Sonoma County are of those who, in the wake of the sixth most destructive fire in the history of California, that killed six.

The damage to the region is so heavily roads are blocked by downed power poles, bridges are damaged, and fire continue to burn, that there are more than 20,000 refugees are still not allowed to return to their homes.

“I think the biggest problem is the infrastructure damage is terrible,” said Ken Pimlott, California’s top fire official.

So evacuees are waiting, often rely on the kindness of strangers, friends and family members.

A young couple with the setting up of a gas grill on a Rescue angle of the street and handed out hot dogs and hamburgers for the victims. After a local radio broadcast of the few for the good deed, the crossing quickly turned into an impromptu gathering spot for refugees, and donations of additional grills, volunteers and food came.

Much to worry, when things are back to normal.

With the first day of school is fast approaching, the 16-year-old Samantha Barber has no idea what she is going to live with her last year to begin on Aug. 15.

Barber and her mother were barred from returning to their home in the small French Gulch last month and spent the first five nights in a hotel. She moved into a spare room in a relative’s home.

“We pretty much had the clothes on our backs,” said the Barber. “It is just breathtaking not be able to get something, having to wash your clothes every night, and go laundry soap and buy dinner every night.”

Some residents who were spared from the destruction in evacuees’ pets and livestock, while offering recreational vehicle and additional bedrooms.

Carla DeLauder, 47, said she learned Thursday that the roads to Rescue her home will be open. But her program can not check if power is back and they can’t risk a five hour drive from where she and her husband are staying with the nine dogs and cats she took when she fled a week ago.

The couple is staying at her parents ‘ home in Livermore, California, about 225 miles (360 kilometers) south of Redding, but her husband, the Rich King, a need to return to work. She had crying fits and bouts of frustration, but she is also the sense of gratitude towards the strangers who had saved her cock Henry, and found a temporary shelter for the sheep she left behind.

“And all this is done by people who I’ve never met,” she said. “I mean, chickens? I didn’t even believe that someone would go to my flock of chickens let alone rescue them.”

Area churches have thrown open their doors and the Red Cross has secondary schools in temporary shelters. Red Cross spokesman Stephen Walsh said that the number of refugees takes on the five temporary shelters, such as firefighters get a handle on the flames, but most remain.

“People are very tired and anxious to go home,” Walsh said. “Those who have a home to go back are frustrated that they can’t go home.”


Associated Press writers Paul Elias and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco and Don Thompson in Sacramento, California, has also contributed to this story.


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