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Puget Sound area Red Cross director to help in tornado-devastated Kentucky

Daniel Wirth led the Red Cross' Disaster Department for Kentucky before working for the Red Cross in Washington. He's headed to Mayfield to help with relief efforts.

SEATAC, Wash. — Before working for the executive director of the American Red Cross office for South Puget Sound and Olympics, Daniel Wirth led the Disaster Department for American Red Cross branches in Kentucky.

"We would respond to all types of disasters, just like the Red Cross does all across the country," Wirth said. "From single-family fires to floods to tornadoes, wildfires; we had all those types of responses in Kentucky during my time there."

That's part of the reason seeing images out of the Midwest and South following Friday and Saturday's tornadoes was so heart-wrenching. Wirth saw the damage and thought of the people he knew living and serving there.

"Our team on the ground in Kentucky was on the ground hours after the tornado hit and were there supporting people in their time of need, providing shelter and food and much needed emotional support and spiritual care as people are suffering," Wirth said. "This disaster is heartbreaking. The sheer magnitude of this tornado and the series of storms that went through not only Kentucky but also Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, has been devastating."

Wirth is headed to Mayfield, Kentucky to help with disaster response. He'll coordinate with government agencies and nonprofit partners, help to assess damage and needs, and work to secure resources.

"Our timeline is really dependent on the need on the ground," Wirth said. "What is needed on the ground is what we will be there to support. It could be as little as two months or as much as six months or longer."

From his experience with disaster response, Wirth senses that full recovery will take not weeks or months, but years.

"All the infrastructure damage, the damage to individuals personal property, this takes time and we'll be there to support and work alongside government partners and other nonprofit partners," Wirth said. 

If people want to help, he encourages them to donate blood or make a monetary donation. He also has this message for people in Washington.

"I'd like people at home to hold their families close and hold their families tight during the holidays," Wirth said. "It's been a wild 18, 20 months that we've all experienced with the pandemic - we're still in a pandemic and still responding - and the Red Cross is there on the ground providing that emotional care, still responding amidst the pandemic."

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