By Eric Maldonado, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross

As Dale Wiley sifts through the remains of his former home in the Pine Summit Estates on Cobb Mountain, he takes a break to eat a hot meal at the community recreation center.

The meals are brought in by dedicated American Red Cross volunteers who travel up and down the mountain several times a day to ensure that residents like Dale have food and water while they continue the enormous task of rebuilding their lives. Dale knows there isn’t a lot left, but he truly appreciates our volunteers’ efforts while he looks for the few remaining items that may be hidden under the ashes.

“The last few days, I’ve eaten better than I have in the last few years,” Dale said with a smile on his face.

He still has pink spots on his clothing from where a DC-10 aircraft dropped flame retardant chemicals near his home as he was preparing to evacuate.

Committed to his friends and neighbors, Dale and his son coordinated to ensure that everyone could take as many necessities with them, until the very last minute. As the flames grew around them, propane tanks started to explode. The scene could only be described as a war zone said Dale, who is a former U.S. Navy sailor. Even though it was time to leave, his son rushed back into the house to salvage his mother’s urn. If Dale is anything, it’s proud of his son.

After evacuating, he spent a few days with friends and eventually made his way to the Red Cross Assistance Center in Clear Lake. He never thought he’d be in a situation where he would need this type of help. “Until you go through something like this, you don’t really get it,” he said.

Dale is committed to rebuilding because Cobb Mountain is his home. He counts himself lucky to have survived. He is grateful for the volunteers who traveled from throughout the country to be here for his community.

“I don’t know where I’d be without all this help,” Dale said.

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