By Barbara Wood, Red Cross volunteer
Phyllis Grin and her grandson spent a week in a Red Cross shelter in Mariposa after they were forced to evacuate by the fast-moving Oak Fire, but she said they found it hard to go home when they were allowed to return.
When the evacuation orders for their neighborhood were lifted after five days Grin and her grandson ventured back to take a look. But conditions were still dire with falling ash and smoke-filled air. After Grin took a tumble that left her bruised and in pain, and noticed that none of her neighbors had returned, she decided to return to the Red Cross shelter for at least one more night.
The Red Cross workers at the shelter have been “very, very good,” Grin said. “I think they do a fabulous job,” she said. “I’m really thankful.”
“They were right there with everything,” she said of the volunteers. “They were all fabulous.”
Her grandson even teased her that she was happier at the Mariposa Elementary School shelter sleeping on a cot than at home, Grin shared.
“I’ll never meet another group of people so nice,” Grin said of the Red Cross workers who tended to her medical needs, fed her hot meals, listened to her concerns and made sure she had a safe and comfortable place to sleep.
“Everybody was so caring. Making sure we stayed informed,” she said. Grin said she even made friends with members of her community she hadn’t known before at the shelter.
Grin had traveled into town for a medical appointment on Friday, July 22 when she started getting increasingly urgent alerts on her phone that she should prepare to evacuate her home. The Oak Fire had just started, but was spreading rapidly.
Soon after Grin finally finished with her delayed appointment and got back to her Hillside Drive home, the call came that she and her grandson and pets needed to leave.
She corralled her two pet cats and two chihuahuas, gathered up the prescription drugs she takes and grabbed a medical bag. She laid out a change of clothing, but in the rush to load up her car forgot it.
It was 10 p.m. by the time Grin and her 28-year-old grandson, Brandon, arrived at the Red Cross shelter and had their animals settled nearby in the animal shelter set up by the Central California Animal Disaster Team.
When Grin finally returned home for good, she had a lot of spoiled food to deal with, but her property and the rest of her neighborhood on Hillside Drive had made it safely through the Oak Fire.
Her animals were especially happy to get home Grin said. “They are so tickled they won’t hardly get out of my sight,” she said. “The cats especially.”