This weekend I got some scary news. My brother is a firefighter in southern California, and he’s one of around 2,300 firefighters who’ve been fighting the Santa Barbara wildfires for the past few days.

I talked to his fiancée this weekend (they’re getting married in 10 days!) and she said Rob and some of the other firefighters had been at someone’s house waiting for an assignment when the fire suddenly came over a nearby hill straight toward them. They had to scramble to get their gear on and start fighting it. My brother’s always been much braver than me. It was obvious from the time that he could walk (actually, I think he probably started skateboarding before he could walk) that he’d grow up and put his body on the line in whatever job he did. While I was busy padding myself with shin-, knee- and elbow-guards just to walk to the bus stop, he was abseiling down the side of our house.

Right now, while Rob’s out there making his big sissy proud – protecting families, pets and homes – there are hundreds of Red Cross volunteers taking care of people at shelters, distributing things like facemasks, and making sure people get the information they need. I might not be very brave, but I work hard to support a network of volunteers who help people in their communities who’ve lost everything, as well as taking care of the front-line emergency responders.

A FESS volunteer talks to a firefighterHere in the UK, we call them fire and emergency support service volunteers. They give up their time not only to help families after disasters like house fires but also to support the emergency services who, like my brother, sometimes risk everything and need to have someone looking after them.

P.S. The American Red Cross has some great advice on preparing for wildfires if you happen to be reading this blog in a dry climate.

Image ©Layton Thompson/British Red Cross