Wildfire Survivor Had No Time to Save Anything

Wildfire survivor Marlene Snyder shares her escape story with Christina Hujanen, a Red Cross disaster relief volunteer, Menagha, MN, May 16, 2013.

Marlene Snyder and her mother-in-law, Mona, stood on their shady back deck, crying.  Marlene gazed helplessly into the shell of her home, trying to identify anything in the charred black mess that had been her living room. 

“That was a table, here was the kitchen,” says Marlene to several Red Cross disaster relief workers who responded to the Green Valley Wildfire disaster within hours after the blaze started on Wednesday, May 15.

At first Marlene and her family weren’t worried about the house. They treated fire spots with sand and water from a hose.  Then they headed with the hose down to a barn, thinking that they could save the barn and their horses when the water stopped.  That was their first clue that their home was in danger.  By the time they returned to the house, fire had gotten into the roof and there was no time to save anything before they fled.  They left with their lives and one photo album.

“I thought I’d come back and there would be things I would recognize, things I could save,” says Marlene.  “I didn’t know I would come back to see something like this.”

Red Cross disaster relief worker Lori Dehn talks with a shelter resident, Sebeka High School, May 16, 2013.
Red Cross disaster relief worker Lori Dehn talks with a wildfire evacuee at the emergency shelter in Menagha, MN, May 16, 2013.

The fast moving wildfire crossed several county lines in north-central Minnesota. Hundreds were forced to evacuate, including residents from a nursing home in Menagha, the town that suffered most of the fire damage. More than 60 people stayed in a Red Cross shelter, waiting for news about their homes. No one, thankfully, was injured. Twelve homes were destroyed. 

Along with 400 other people, the Snyder family attended a community meeting where they learned about efforts to contain the fire as well as disaster relief services for affected families.  Many, including Marlene, expressed their thanks to the firefighters, emergency responders, and Red Cross workers for their help during the Green Valley Wildfire disaster.

To date, the Red Cross has served more than 1,000 meals and snacks, handed out more than 300 disaster relief items, including comfort and clean-up kits, and mobilized more than 40 disaster relief workers, 90 percent of whom are volunteers.

“We’re so grateful for what you’ve done,” says Marlene. “You’re doing a great job.”

Story and photos by Judy Hanne-Gonzalez/American Red Cross. Click here to learn more about American Red Cross disaster relief and how you can help.

2 Replies to “Wildfire Survivor Had No Time to Save Anything”

  1. Slight correction – this photo was taken at the Menahga shelter at Laestadian Lutheran Church. We moved the shelter from Sebeka to that location on day 2. – Lori Dehn

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