By Barbara Wood, Red Cross volunteer
Red Cross volunteer nurse, Barbara Pease, of Sunnyvale said she was thrilled when a match between a break in her busy life and the need for help in a disaster allowed her to pitch in after the Oak Fire broke out in Mariposa County on July 22.
“I don’t have tons of availability,” said Pease, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years. Her youngest son is still at home, and she works part-time at a tiny infusion center where there isn’t a lot of backup.
So, when the word came Pease was needed when she was available Pease said yes “in a heartbeat. We’re all sweaty and sticky and hot. But it’s wonderful work. I love it.”
Pease finished the training needed to be a Red Cross nurse in a disaster in February 2020, just before the Covid pandemic completely changed everything, including how Red Cross could assist locally and across the country. “Most of my deployments have been virtual,” she said. She did the things that Red Cross nurses do — replacing medications, eyeglasses or medical equipment lost in a disaster and assessing any medical needs — over the phone.
In 2019, Pease’s first in-person Red Cross deployment turned out to be a memorable one. She was assigned to a small shelter in Chester, next to Lake Almanor. Most of the approximately 30 people staying in the shelter had evacuated from Greenville when it was threatened by the Dixie Fire.
After a few days, the threat seemed to have passed so residents were allowed to return home and Red Crossers shut down the shelter. It was not to be.
“They went home and the fire turned the next day,” Pease said.
“We were literally, literally, locking the door” of the closed shelter when the Greenville residents returned. With the fire burning between them and other Red Cross shelters, they had no choice but to reopen in Chester.
“It was crazy,” Pease said. “But we knew the fire was headed our way.”
”We didn’t sleep much that night,” she said. Chester survived the fire, as did all the residents of the shelter and the Red Crossers who made sure they were safe before leaving themselves. Greenville, however, was burned to the ground.
Now during the Oak Fire, Pease, alongside other nurses and doctors, has been able to support more than 40 people, primarily an elderly population with medical needs.
Red Cross health services workers are in shelters to tend to the good health and well-being of all residents. These volunteers, who are licensed health care professionals, help assess health needs, provide or assist with care as needed, and replace medications, supplies and equipment that may have been lost or destroyed during the disaster. Health services workers encourage residents to wash their hands, cover their coughs and dispose of tissues properly to prevent infection. They are also available to assist people with care for common ailments and injuries.