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'It's going to be okay': Red Cross steps up to help those displaced by fires around Lame Deer

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Posted at 9:01 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-14 13:58:17-04

As firefighters battle the 170,303-acre Richard Spring Fire and the 5,427-acre Lame Deer fire, the American Red Cross has set up several shelters over the past week for those evacuated.

Electricity and cell phone service were not available on Wednesday at the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Schools gym, where many had gathered after the initial evacuation.

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"There's a generator that was brought in by DES out of Lame Deer," said Duane Swank, facilites manager at the tribal schools. "We've got a Wyola bus out of Crow to pick up our elders to take them to Billings."

The Wyola Schools bus took some to a motel in Billlngs.

One woman on the bus said on Wednesday that she had not heard from her family.

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"I don't know where anybody is," said Sarah Mason from Muddy Cluster. "We have no WiFi, no electricity, no way to call, contact anybody so I don't know. Pretty scary."

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"Last minute thing so we didn't know what was going on," said Clair Clubfoot from Lame Deer. "We're just seeing the smoke and the fire and everything and so they told us to evacuate and so we just got on the bus that they provided for us and then they brought us up here. "

The Crow tribe opened up its multi-purpose building for an American Red Cross shelter for those evacuated from the Northern Cheyenne.

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"Again pretty hectic to where it jump across the, come down to the creek, the Rosebud Creek," said Garland Manley from Muddy Cluster.

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"So I gathered all my children," said Jacklyn Littlebird from Lame Deer. "And I came this way and when I got to Crow, they said, the (Crow Tribal) Chairman Frank (White Clay) opened this up for people to coming from Lame Deer. So I came here. That's why I'm here."

The Red Cross had originally recommended people go to Crow Agency, but that changed and people stayed at both spots on Wednesday.

"I have like 20 grandchildren," Littlebird said. "That's all I got and they're all here with me."

"I hope they're all safe and pray," Manley said. "Everybody needs prayers."

"I'm ok, said Mason. "I'm alive."

"We're survivors," said Clubfoot. "Cheyennes are survivors."

For American Red Cross workers, it can be a challenging and demanding job.

"The schedule is 24 hours," said Sherrilyn Hamilton, disaster program specialist for the American Red Cross, said on Thursday. "And you try to get a little bit of sleep here and there. But it's rewarding for me, because I know that I'm making a difference for somebody that is frightened, confused, just plain scared."

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Hamilton she first became acquainted with the American Red Cross when she needed help on her land for the Dahl Fire Musselshell County in 2012.

"That was my first introduction to American Red Cross," Hamilton said. "They helped my husband and me. And after a few years I thought, you know, I kind of would like to volunteer with them. And I have five years now."

She said for the American Red Cross, the Richard Spring Fire is now a disaster relief operation.

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"It has been declared so we can bring in national resources and more resources to this area for us to assist evacuees and clients," Hamilton said.

Northern Cheyenne tribal members are also helping with the evacuations and pre-evacuations.

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"It is a big, big thing for us to make sure that our loved ones and everybody's taken care of." said Rose Harris, Northern Cheyenne Search & Rescue. "All of the people that are playing a part, a big thank you, and you know just keep us in your prayers."

"The most important thing that I can say to them, it's going to be okay," Hamilton said.