Red Cross deals with busiest month ever

Non-profit organization has helped hundreds displaced by fires


SAN ANTONIO – Since late February, the San Antonio chapter of the American Red Cross has responded to at least six fires in San Antonio, making the last 30 days the busiest in the local organizations 97 year history.

"You might call it our worst month, but you could call it our best month because our volunteers have been able to respond to all these fires," said Red Cross Regional Communications Manager Rafael Aviles,

Aviles said the busy period began on February 25.

After volunteers helped several families in South Bexar County displaced by a fire they were sent to the Wood Hollow Apartment where 66 units suffered major damage.

The red cross opened 46 cases that night.

Aviles said another busy day was March 18.

Fourteen units at the Fox Run Apartments on the city's northeast side were destroyed by a fire.

Later that day 22 residents living in the Oakstone Apartments were displaced.

At least 140 apartment units have been destroyed or deemed unfit for habitation because of a fire, and in each case the Red Cross was there to help victims find shelter and provide them with the basic essentials needed to get by for a few nights.

"The last thing you're prepared to do is fill out paperwork or call a million people and try to find a place to stay," said Aviles. "That's what we try to do."

Red Cross staff members said being the first person to reach out to someone who has just lost everything can take an emotional toll.

Anna Sweeden said helping people start over is the hardest, yet most rewarding, part of her job, but she admits it takes a special type of person to do it.

"You see a lot of impact that you would not even imagine," Sweeden said. "We're the guys who get up at two o'clock in the morning. They stand beside those firefighters. I don't' know how many people have that many good buds who are going to show up and do those things at 2 a.m. but we do it."

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