Salvation Army takes post during Station Fire

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Volunteers man canteens at fire training facility and emergency shelters.

by Christin Davis –

Fire personnel take a break at a Salvation Army canteen. [Photo by Robert Brennan]

As Southern California’s latest wildfire—the “Station Fire”—neared containment after consuming 250 square miles, roughly 15,000 firemen descended upon Dodger Stadium on Sept. 12 to memorialize Capt. Tedmund “Ted” Hall and Firefighter Spc. Arnaldo “Arnie” Quinones who died Aug. 30 when their truck fell 800 feet into a ravine. For over 10 hours preceding the memorial, Salvation Army volunteers and staff from the Southern California divisional headquarters manned the Army’s canteen (a donation from Fed Ex) and served arriving firemen at a fire training facility adjacent to Dodger Stadium.

The canteen was able to serve hundreds of cups of coffee as the Army’s nearby Los Angeles Harbor Light men’s shelter continuously brewed coffee in large quantities and drove it to the canteen.

“As firemen arrived at the training facility to be shuttled to or drive the rigs into the stadium all through the night, so many said, ‘Oh, thank God there is coffee!,’” said June Loo, director of disaster services in the Southern California Division. “It was wonderful exposure for The Salvation Army and an honor for us to be there.”

Mobilizing the canteens
Classified as the largest wildfire in the history of Los Angeles County, the Station Fire burned mostly in steep mountainous terrain and up inaccessible back roads of the Angeles National Forest. Ample federal resources were thus provided to fire crews and emergency personnel.

The Southern California Division sent four canteens to the local emergency disaster shelters and served more than 1,500 meals over an eight-day period. Trained staff and volunteers also offered counseling and spiritual comfort.

“When arriving onsite at the emergency shelter at La Canada High School, I noticed all the personnel from different agencies and insurance companies,” said Christopher Golden, canteen volunteer and corps assistant for program at the Long Beach Citadel Corps. “While our community partners, the American Red Cross, assisted clients in the shelter, our team from the Long Beach Corps made sure the shelter staff, insurance company personnel and people evacuated from their homes were served and ministered to.”

The next day Golden went with the canteen to the emergency shelter at Verdugo Hills High School.

“I came across a child named Max who told me that all he wanted to do was get home,” Golden said. “I explained to him that it wasn’t time yet and offered him a seemingly trivial meal. He said, ‘Mommy, this macaroni tastes just like how you make it at home.’ The mother later thanked our staff for a moment that had made her smile for the first time in a few days.”

Impact of a wildfire
“Because the fire was vastly remote, most people went about their daily business in Southern California,” said Loo, who lives in La Crescenta—an area threatened by the fire. “We could’ve handed the firemen a million dollars and it wouldn’t have been enough to thank them for their work; they saved my house.”

The fire destroyed 89 houses and 26 commercial properties totaling $14 million and has cost more than $92.6 million to fight, according to Reuters News Service. To date, Loo said only 11 families have filed insurance cases for a loss of primary residence; most of the other structures were vacation cabins.

Local Salvation Army emergency disaster personnel have made contact with other social service agencies to establish case management for fire survivors needing to rebuild their homes.

At the time of printing, the fire had burned for 23 days; full containment was expected by day 24.

The Army is accepting monetary donations to help replenish emergency supplies in Southern California.

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