Finding Shelter, Each In Their Own Way

by Dave Wagner, Public Affairs Volunteer

The Miwok have inhabited the Sierra Nevada mountains in and around Yosemite National Park for thousands of years. George Leroy Williams, Sr. lives with his family in the Bootjack neighborhood just south of the Park. I found Williams, a self-described spiritual leader of the Wilton Rancheria Tribe of Miwoks, at his campsite in a shady area just outside the Red Cross shelter in Mariposa.


“It was pure torture trying to find places to stay until we found the Red Cross shelter,” said Williams, after being forced from his home by the Oak Fire. The family chose to camp outside, instead of staying inside the shelter, so they could stay with their two dogs and two cats around the clock. And because they enjoy being out-of-doors as much as possible.

“The Red Cross is the best in the world – always has been.”

When his daughter told him that there was a fire approaching their home, Williams told her not to worry because it wasn’t coming their way. Twenty minutes later he looked out his kitchen window. “It was like the fire was alive,” he recalls, “it was green outside one minute and just an orange ball of fire the next.”


Happy that his family finally found safe refuge, he pointed to his cot nestled beneath some nearby trees and remarked, “The best sleep I had in a week was on that cot. It’s better than my own bed at home. I hope they let me take it home with me. That cot is perfect for me, just perfect.” Although the Williams family is camping outside the shelter, they are taking advantage of the other amenities provided by the Red Cross such as three meals each day and hot showers. “The Red Cross is the best in the world, in the world,” he said, “always has been.”

Please consider helping people affected by this fire and wildfires across the west. Your donation enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters.

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Additional photos by Taylor Poisall and Tracy Sebastian

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