San Diego, CA, September 21, 2009 --(PR.com
)-- Rousted from their homes by disastrous firestorms, thousands of evacuees fled for shelter at Qualcomm Stadium where Debt Free League personnel joined masses of volunteers to provide aid during the 2007 Southern California wildfires.
Reminiscent of the Hurricane Katrina-spurred 2005 New Orleans refugee crisis, the states’ largest-ever wildfires caused the biggest evacuation in California history, from north Los Angeles to the Mexican border. Also in eerie comparison to the carnage of the Santa Ana winds exactly four years ago that killed 22 people, destroyed nearly 3,600 homes, and burned over 743,000 acres in Southern California, this fall's unrelenting Santa Ana winds whipped a whirlwind of unstoppable damage throughout Southern California.
Primarily led by the Protero and Harris fires, in San Diego County alone, the wildfires caused over one billion in damages burning 1,800 homes and over 100 businesses and causing 27 injuries and 12 deaths. They also displaced over one million San Diegans from their homes, many of which received housing in other shelters, hotels and adjoining Riverside County. Unlike Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters and storms, where evacuees at the Louisiana Superdome endured a scarcity of food, sanitation and law enforcement protection, evacuees at Qualcomm, home of the San Diego Charges, and one of various evacuee shelters were guarded by police and National Guard troops. They also partook from the offerings of oodles of food supplies and the comforts of toiletries, cots, blankets, chairs, tents, and sleeping bags.
Indeed an emergency evacuation zone for refugees ousted from their homes, that lost homes, personal effects and loved ones, strangely, Qualcomm Stadium showed no signs of grief or despair. Despite the anxiety of the fires, the atmosphere was somewhat festive. As stated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger after his second visit to the shelter on Monday, "the people are happy. They have everything here." Some evacuees equated the feeling at Qualcomm to a day at the Del Mar Fair.
Many evacuees relished gourmet-style catering of various restaurants including a Hyatt hotel buffet consisting of chicken with artichoke hearts and capers in cream sauce, jambalaya, and shredded-beef empanadas and delicious hot meals from the Hard Rock Café. Besides the ample inventory of basic food and living essentials, the site was replete with pleasing commodities including free psychotherapy, acupuncture, live rock and roll entertainment, yoga classes, movies on the Jumbotron, Internet access from a makeshift Internet Cafe, and a myriad of kiosk-based free services by various national vendors, such as Cricket and Verizon.
"I was amazed by the incredible Press Release support. It seemed like a ratio of nearly 2 volunteers to every evacuee", declared Eric Santacruz, Vice President of Debt Free League. Mr. Santacruz along with an entourage of company volunteers offered to help out in any needed capacity. "We rolled up our sleeves and came ready to help and also dropped off some water supplies for the evacuees and crayons, coloring books, and miniature footballs to put a smile on their children", states Mr. Santacruz.
After learning that the people at Qualcomm were well cared for, Mr. Santacruz and staff headed to finish off their donations at Chula Vista High School in South County, a shelter which predominantly housed Hispanic, lower income evacuees.