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Americares sending relief to California

November 14, 2018

A Stamford-based organization is sending emergency supplies to California areas devastated by wildfires over the past week.

Americares, one of the world’s largest nonprofit providers of donated medicine and medical supplies, has sent a crew to Northern California where a massive fire in Butte County has killed 48 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

“Thousands of California residents are in need of assistance, including many who don’t have homes to return to,” said Americares Director of Emergency Response Brian Scheel. “We have an emergency team on the way and supplies ready to ship. We are making sure survivors’ most urgent health needs are met.”

The Camp Fire in Butte County is the deadliest in state history and has scorched 130,000 acres, forced more than 300,000 people to evacuate, and destroyed more than 7,600 homes since it began last week.

The relief organization is putting together packages with medicine, respirator masks, hygiene kits, first aid supplies and vaccines to help stock clinics.

Donna Porstner, spokesperson for Americares, said the two-person crew will assess the damage to see what supplies are needed and where.

“When you have thousands of people displaced, you’re going to need hygiene and first aid kits,” she said, adding that masks are also a must. “We also know that many times when families are forced to evacuate so quickly, people with health conditions will not bring medication they need or not bring enough.”

The California fires are an active emergency, which means they present challenges that differ from a response to a natural disaster that has already occurred. Porstner called the situation in the Golden State “very fluid,” and said the Americares crew might have to move locations several times to stay out of harm’s way.

The crew is lead by JP Fisher, emergency response manager for Americares, and a Stamford resident.

Speaking on Wednesday, Porstner said supply packages could be shipped out as early as later in the day, and could arrive by Friday.

Americares also has reached out to health agencies in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, other areas of the state currently being ravaged by large wildfires.

Americares responds to an average of 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year. Last year, the organization responded to 35 emergencies in 24 countries, up from 25 disasters in 19 countries the year before. Its 50,000-square-foot distribution center in Stamford houses large collections of cellophane-wrapped supplies ready to be shipped to places in need.

The non-profit relief organization is actively responding to more than a dozen emergencies around the world. Currently, Americares has five emergency response teams in the field in California, Florida, Colombia, Indonesia and the Northern Mariana Islands, and has emergency program staff in Texas and Puerto Rico assisting with the recovery effort from Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.

Donations to Americares California Wildfire Relief Fund can be made at americares.org/californiafires.

ignacio.laguarda@stamfordadvocate.com

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