Trudy Raymond, 69, slipped on a shimmering dark blue evening dress at Audrey’s, a Boutique, on a recent afternoon, and slowly pivoted in front of a mirror.
Raymond will be a model at Fire on the Runway, an annual Inland Northwest Red Cross fundraiser featuring local firefighters and others.
Raymond is also a member of the fashion show’s planning committee. It’s a labor of love for her: She knows firsthand what the Red Cross can provide.
“We lost our home in the 1987 Hangman Hills fire,” she said. “My husband and I were able to get home, grab our two kitties and we ran for our lives through smoke and flames.”
Their ordeal was eased by the assistance of the Red Cross. “They set up an evacuation center at Ferris High School,” Raymond said. “We all met there the next day to be escorted back to our community and to our devastated homes. The Red Cross also intercepted phone calls to our homes; our phones would ring even though the house was gone. Friends and relatives were then given numbers where we could be reached, as they were trying to find us.”
The Raymonds rebuilt their home on the same spot, and while the horror of the fire has faded a bit, their appreciation for firefighters and the Red Cross has only intensified. “Many people think disasters will not happen to them, but they can and they do happen,” she said. “It’s comforting to know help is available.”
Firefighter Amber Hamil, 29, has no problem putting her life on the line while responding to calls, but donning an evening gown makes her uncomfortable. Hamil, a member of the Airway Heights Fire Department, is one of 25 local firefighters who will model in the show.
She shyly emerged from a dressing room at Audrey’s wearing a form-fitting green-and-gold gown.
“I’d much rather be in firefighter gear instead of a dress and heels,” she said. “I’m a typical tomboy. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone because my chief’s wife drafted me.”
Her chief is Mitch Metzger. He serves on the Red Cross board of directors and his wife, Kelly, joined the Fire on the Runway planning committee this year. Metzger said the support of the Red Cross is important to area firefighters.
“When most people think of the Red Cross, they think of the big events like Superstorm Sandy or the mudslide in Oso, Washington, but the majority of the time they are taking care of our community, responding to house and apartment fires,” he said.
Local Red Cross spokeswoman Megan Snow agreed. “Almost 98 percent of our responses throughout the country are actually house fires. Locally, we responded to 130 disasters last fiscal year and helped 493 people,” she said. “With the recent string of major fires – including the apartment complex fire a month ago that left 55 people with nothing – events like this are really important to not only raise funds for our work, but to educate our community about the work the Red Cross does locally.”
The event typically raises about $25,000, Snow said, all of which stays in the community.
KXLY-TV’s Kris Crocker will host the evening event. Guests will be treated to dessert and sparkling wine, a swag bag and an event photo. Prizes are also up for grabs in raffle baskets and the wall of wine and spirits raffles.
Local shops provide the fashions, but organizers say event is not your typical fashion show due in large part to the enthusiastic participation of the firefighters. “You never know what’s going to happen,” Metzger said. “We grab props, ad lib, do a little dancing. The ladies start throwing money at us.”
Fire on the Runway also showcases the tight partnership the Red Cross has with first responders.
“They come out and feed the firefighters and bring us coffee,” Metzger said. “Their support is really important. The Fire Department is very good at going out and taking care of the emergency, but we’re not equipped to take care of the people affected by it. The Red Cross takes care of people after we leave.”