By Gordon Williams
Red Cross volunteer Tracy Sheehy had just returned home from a two-week deployment to the California wildfires when she was asked to help at the fires sweeping through Washington. Now she is mass care manager for Red Cross sheltering operations in Federal Way and Puyallup where she works with shelter manager Richard Simmons.
This is non-congregate sheltering, as mandated by the pandemic. Instead of everyone sleeping out in the open on cots in a school gym, Tracy’s Red Cross clients are being housed in hotel rooms where there is less risk of clients and staff infecting one another. When we talked to Tracy, the Red Cross was sheltering around 170 clients.
Tracy is hardly a stranger to disaster scenes. For one thing, the Red Cross has deployed her to disasters 20 times, starting with her first one in 2008 when she responded to flooding. More to the point, Tracy is a retired firefighter with the Fife, WA fire department. When a nephew told Tracy he was volunteering with the Red Cross, she decided to volunteer as well.
Tracy had hardly returned from California when she got a call asking her to respond to fires in Western Washington. The call came on Monday evening. By late that night, she was volunteering at the Graham fire and directing evacuees from the fire to Red Cross facilities. When the Graham fire darkened down, she was moved to Red Cross operations at the Bonney Lake fire.
Tracy’s Red Cross response suddenly turned very personal when the Bonney Lake fire threatened to destroy her own home. “Luckily they got the fire under control,” she said.
We talked to Tracy on Thursday, September 10. She expected the Red Cross operation to last through the weekend. The fire had mostly burned itself out but roads in the area had not reopened and firefighters were still soaking down hot spots. Only when all danger has passed will Red Cross operations end, and evacuees be allowed to return to their homes.