President’s Day weekend brought extreme cold to our region, and with it, a significant spike in local home fires. In just four days, Red Cross volunteers responded to 20 separate calls for emergency assistance across our 24-county service area, and provided aid including temporary shelter, financial assistance and emotional support to more than 50 people.

Here, one of those volunteers shares an account of this unusually busy weekend in his own words…

My name is Garrick Hoadley, and I am a member of the DAT (Disaster Action Team) of the Mohawk Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. From my home in Gilbertsville, I respond to fires in Otsego and Delaware counties. This past week has seen several house fires that needed a Red Cross response to provide assistance to those displaced by the fires. I have been able to help 12 people who lost all their worldly possessions to six fires in Unadilla, Milford, Walton, two fires in Trout Creek and another on Tuesday in Cooperstown. The weather has not been helpful, and while there has not been a lot of snow, temperatures have ranged from -20 to +40 degrees.

Red Cross volunteer Garrick Hoadley (right) at the scene of a local home fire.

Recently, when I received a Red Cross dispatch call at 5 A.M., I realized that fire fighters had probably been on the scene since 1 or 2 A.M. and that those displaced by the fire had been out in the -10° weather since then. The drive to the fire took almost an hour. At the fire scene, I spoke with a chief and found the individual displaced by the fire. I invited him into my car for a short interview and then handed him an envelope containing a loaded Casualty Assistance (debit) Card. I explained,

“This is a gift from the American people. When people donate money to the American Red Cross, this is how we use it.” 

He said a sincere “Thank you” and went off to start a new life with money to pay for some food, clothing and a place to stay for the next few days. I headed home knowing I had done a very good thing.

The Red Cross always needs motivated volunteers to support their mission to provide disaster relief. The Red Cross supplies free training and maintains a dedicated support team to assist volunteers in the field. Responding to a local disaster such as a house fire is not for everyone, but if you can do it, you’ll be amply rewarded by the smiles and tears of those you help.

If you’d like to help disaster victims as a Red Cross volunteer like Garrick, please visit Enter your home zip code and select “Disaster Services” as your area of interest to find current volunteer opportunities near you. To donate to Red Cross Disaster Relief and help families affected by home fires and other disasters, click here.