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Red Cross closes fire evacuee shelter at The Expo

The American Red Cross has closed the indoor shelter that has been operating at the Jackson County Expo since the Almeda fire erupted Sept. 8 and forced thousands to evacuate.

The shelter closed at noon Tuesday after the Red Cross said no one had stayed at the indoor shelter for several nights. The disaster organization has been moving people who need shelter to local hotels and other places where they don’t need to spend the night in a group setting — especially important considering the risk of COVID-19.

More than 300 displaced people are being temporarily housed in 175 rooms at nine local hotels, said John Vial, acting director of the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

The Red Cross is continuing to work with evacuees to help them make housing arrangements in partnership with the county, state and community organizations.

Some evacuees are staying with friends and family, while others have found new rentals. But with the rental vacancy rate hovering close to 0%, housing options are limited.

With people’s circumstances shifting in the aftermath of local fires, they should still reach out if they need shelter by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or visiting www.redcross.org, Vial said.

“Give them a call and say, ‘I don’t have a place to go,’” he said.

Local nonprofit groups, churches and others are serving on a newly created sheltering task force to address the ongoing need for immediate shelter in a coordinated way, Vial said.

Others are working together to identify parcels of vacant land where services could be put in for temporary trailers during the long cleanup and rebuilding process.

Jackson County’s Southern Oregon RV Park next to The Expo in Central Point is about one-third full of fire evacuees. As travelers who had reservations leave, the county is filling available spaces with more evacuees. The RV park has full RV services, he said.

Behind The Expo grounds, more evacuees are staying in an RV parking area that is normally used by people attending horse shows and other events. That area has water and power hookups, but no septic dump, Vial said.

For sanitation and safety reasons, The Expo is not allowing RVs to park in its parking lots in areas without services, he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Doug Crenshaw from the American Red Cross checks the temperature of a guest arriving to the Jackson County Expo Tuesday. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune