This is How Superheroes Roll

by Dave Wagner, Public Affairs Volunteer

When Oscar Mejia deployed to the Dixie Fire in early August, he had no idea the blaze would become the largest single fire in California history. As a Red Cross volunteer, Mejia has taken part in more than his fair share of disaster responses – a flood in Massachusetts, a couple of hurricanes in the southeast, and earthquakes and wildfires all over California. All he could think about this time though, as he, along with co-pilot and fellow volunteer Manuel Lerma, headed up the CA 99 from Bakersfield was how lucky he was to be cruising in a Red Cross Next-Generation Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV).

“I’m in love with the Sprinter van,” said Mejia. “When we were in Ridgecrest [for the earthquake], I got my first chance to drive one. Then I drove one from Salem, Oregon to Fort Wayne, Indiana. They are super, super vehicles.”

And just like Mejia, everyone seems to be excited about these state-of-the-art vehicles the Red Cross is adding to its fleet. The new ERVs are much easier to drive and have a substantially roomier cab than the older versions. The larger size also means that the vehicle can go out with four attendants— as opposed to the limit of two attendants previously. 

Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles are used for mobile feeding, relief supply distribution, and other activities during national and local disasters. They can also be utilized at community preparedness and outreach events. Always on the move, they are a large mobile “billboard” representing the Red Cross in communities all across the country.

Across one side of each new vehicle are two easy-to-open serving windows, well-suited for the delivery of meals to neighborhoods and communities affected by disasters. “We were distributing meals every day,” Mejia declared. In the high Sierra towns of Quincy, Chester and Greenville, all devastated by the Dixie Fire, he said they found “quite a bit of need and people were very, very grateful.”

“I was in the ERV handing out Subway lunches in Quincy. A lady came by with a bunch of really cute kids. Those hungry kids were very, very happy with those sandwiches.”

In addition to the mobile feeding missions, the ERVs are sent out to affected communities with emergency supplies. According to Mejia, the new vehicles are “great for distributing cases of water. We also handed out a lot of fire kits and clean-up kits.”

The Nest-Generation Emergency Response Vehicle that Oscar Mejia and Manuel Lerma took to the Dixie Fire is just one of ten ERVs donated to the Red Cross from the Latter-day Saint Charities.

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