Mountain View resident Marcel Pajuelo-Schwartz was in good spirits the day after he returned from the Red Cross shelter at Chelan High School in Washington state after more than a week. One could forgive him if he were far less amiable.
Pajuelo-Schwartz worked 20-hour days while he was in Chelan helping the Red Cross effort to provide aid to residents affected by the largest wildfire in state history. He was sent along with three other members of the American Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter, and arrived on July 19.
Pajuelo-Schwartz said he worked primarily as a facilities coordinator, ensuring that the staff and the shelter's kitchen had everything they needed. Red Cross emergency response vehicles delivered breakfast, lunch and dinner from the shelter to city residents who evacuated or lost their homes.
The shelter also housed many of these residents.
"We were sheltering clients," Pajuelo-Schwartz said. "We don't like to call them victims."
According to Pajuelo-Schwartz, his average day began between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. and ended around midnight. Pajuelo-Schwartz said the long number of hours he spent working at the Red Cross were necessary because the shelter was initially understaffed.
"You do what is needed because always at the beginning of a job, you're short of staff," Pajuelo-Schwartz said.
According to Pajuelo-Schwartz, the relief effort at the shelter eventually grew to house 75 Red Cross members and 22 volunteers.
Pajuelo-Schwartz said he began volunteering for the Red Cross in 1967 and has been sent on relief effort missions across the nation and even the globe around 400 times.
"I was raised to help whoever was in need and I've done it most of my life," Pajuelo-Schwartz said.
He said that his extensive level of experience allowed him to better handle the long hours and heavy rigor of his workload.
"You learn how to cope," he said.
Pajuelo-Schwartz said that he spent most of his stay inside the shelter, which provided him with few opportunities to survey the fire's damage. Around the time he departed from Washington, firefighters had contained the fire and residents began to return to their homes.
Pajuelo-Schwartz noted that on the night he returned to Mountain View, he got eight hours rest.
"Your adrenalin goes down and you crash and burn," Pajuelo-Schwartz said.
Despite the long hours, he had no complaints about working for the Red Cross.
"Red Cross takes good care of us," he said.