The American Red Cross team at Sinagua Middle School, the designated shelter for fire evacuees, has overwhelmed its temporary residents with resources to keep them safe, well-fed, rested and comfortable.
“They overfeed you,” said Joe Pigsley, who has been staying at the shelter since Monday.
Volunteers have been working 12-hour shifts to provide three meals a day, snacks, towels and comfort kits – containing things like toothbrushes and washcloths – to people seeking shelter from the evacuated area near Schultz Pass Road, as well as pre-evacuated areas.
“They’d just as soon be in a safe place now, rather than wait [until evacuation], and that’s fine. We are a place for people to come and feel safe,” shelter manager Leslie Livingston said.
Pigsley and Stephanie Salame were in the middle of a cross-country trip to Massachusetts and had planned to stay in Flagstaff for a week.
When the fire broke out, though, they quickly abandoned their tents and coolers at the Cinder Hills Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area and sought shelter after a recurring medical condition sent Pigsley to the emergency room. They said they were scared at the time because they had no previous experience with wildfires.
Pigsley and Salame were two of the 11 people registered for shelter Tuesday night.
Though the Sinagua gymnasium had plenty of space for more people, Livingston said most evacuees had family or friends they could stay with instead.
Nevertheless, she said her team has been blessed by community efforts to help those being sheltered.
The school cafeteria team offered to feed evacuees both breakfast and lunch as part of its existing Summer Food Service Program, while local restaurants dropped off dinners. Hotels, grocery stores and community members donated snacks.
“We spend more of the day talking with people wanting to volunteer or offer donations than pretty much anything else,” Livingston said.
Kaitlin Olson can be reached at the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (928) 556-2253.