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Sunday, October 13, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington

Vancouver Red Cross volunteer heads to Camp Fire front lines

Ron Burby Red Cross volunteer Ron Burby of Vancouver stands for a photo in front of a Red Cross vehicle on Wednesday in December. Burby, who started disaster relief volunteering with the Red Cross late 2017, was sent to Northern California Monday to help with relief efforts in the wake of the deadly Camp Fire on Monday. (Alisha Jucevic / Columbian)
Ron Burby Red Cross volunteer Ron Burby of Vancouver stands for a photo in front of a Red Cross vehicle on Wednesday in December. Burby, who started disaster relief volunteering with the Red Cross late 2017, was sent to Northern California Monday to help with relief efforts in the wake of the deadly Camp Fire on Monday. (Alisha Jucevic / Columbian)
By Andy Matarrese Columbian

Vancouver Red Cross volunteer Ron Burby starts work helping those displaced by the lethal Camp Fire in Northern California today, after he was deployed to the wildfire-ravaged state Monday.

“Tomorrow will be the day that I’ll be able to put eyeballs on some of the destruction and get those much-needed supplies to folks,” he said in transit from Sacramento to Redding, Calif., Tuesday evening.

He and other volunteers were to pick up several rental box trucks to drive to Yuba City, where his team of 16 will be stationed, he said.

The fire kicked off Thursday, and as of Tuesday night had killed at least 48 people, destroyed more than 6,400 residences and burned nearly 200 square miles, according to fire managers.

Burby started volunteering with the Red Cross in September 2017, and since then has been on a dozen different deployments to the scenes of wildfires and hurricanes.

“I pretty well know what to expect,” he said. “There’s a lot of confusion as things are getting started.”

In Yuba City, they’ll assemble disaster relief kits, which are 30-gallon bins full of items like bug spray, face masks, tarps and other items handy after a disaster.

The volunteers load each truck with enough kits to serve about 60 families, then go to fixed spots or drive around affected areas to hand them out.

It’s what he’s been doing for his four deployments, Burby said.

“I kind of like to go that way because you’re on the front lines. You’re out there meeting people and you know what you’re doing is helping people,” he said.

He’s retired from the transportation industry, where he delivered semitrailers. Burby expects to be in California for 14 days, the typical length of a deployment. He and the other volunteers will likely be sleeping on Army-style cots, working 12- to 14-hour days.

“Being retired, sitting around in my garage playing with my hot rod, you know, it’s a lot of fun,” Burby said. “But when you see and hear of people out there that are suffering, that’s why you volunteer at the Red Cross. That’s why we do what we do.”

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