As wildfires continue raging through California, volunteers from Connecticut face mounting challenges to help evacuees.
Joe Apicelli of Groton is more than a week into a three-week deployment with the American Red Cross, and is stationed in Chico, CA about fifteen miles from Paradise, the town practically obliterated by the Camp Fire.
“The mood is grim,” Apicelli said. “It’s smoke filled air 24/7. You’re breathing this toxic air and people are downright frustrated,” he said.
The death toll reached 76 and the number of people reported missing hit more than 1,300 by Saturday night.
Photos taken by Apicelli and provided to NBC Connecticut show large white boards where evacuees post names and numbers of people they’re searching for in the hopes of making a connection. Morale amongst the evacuees is low, as people wait for daily updates from officials, he said.
“Every day they hear the same thing. ‘We know how you’re feeling, we’re trying to get you that name, that person,’ but they don’t want to hear that,” he said.
Apicelli said what the evacuees from Paradise do want to hear is the all clear to go home, although home will never be the same.
“What I’ve heard from countless persons is that all they want to do is just go back and see it one last time before it’s bulldozed away,” he said.
In the meantime, volunteers from numerous organizations are working together to offer evacuees food, shelter, and medicine.
The Camp Fire has so far blazed through nearly 150,000 acres and was 55 percent contained as of Saturday night.