Emergency Response: Sherpa Wildfire, Santa Barbara


(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

Every day, the team at Direct Relief monitors, assesses and, if necessary, responds to natural disasters and other emergencies – across the US and globally.

Sometimes it’s only a matter of looking out the window.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 15th, 2016, a wildfire broke out about 10 miles from Direct Relief’s warehouse headquarters in Santa Barbara County. As of Friday evening, it has spread to more than 5,866 acres and is 20 percent contained. Mandatory evacuations are in place in several areas of the County. Full containment is estimated to occur next Wednesday.

Direct Relief’s Response

As is typical in these situations, Direct Relief’s emergency response team has been in frequent communications with the broad network of local responders – in this case, the County of Santa Barbara Public Health Department, the County Office of Emergency Services, the Central California Chapter of the American Red Cross, members of the local VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters), and other community groups.

At this point, the obvious priority is combatting the fire – a dangerous endeavor for which Santa Barbara’s firefighters are renowned as being among the most experienced and skilled in the world.  The threats to human health on which Direct Relief focuses include the health needs of evacuees as well as the effects of smoke and fine particulate matter in the air, which can pose severe complications for people with existing respiratory conditions.

Direct Relief maintains an inventory of fire-related items – N-95 particulate masks, inhalers, nebulizers, and personal care items – for wildfire events, and they are available should the County responders request this aid for their work or support of the community.

All Direct Relief staff are safe, and the organization’s daily work to support healthcare provider partners and ongoing response to disasters (including the flooding in Texas, where 10,000 people have lost their homes), is continuing without pause.

Direct Relief will continue to monitor the situation closely and stand ready to mobilize resources as needed upon direction from the County Emergency Operations Center.

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