Tag Archives: American Red Cross

Great Michigan Forest Fires

The great Michigan forest fires of 1881 swept over four counties in three days, destroyed nearly two million dollars’ worth of property, and killed one hundred and twenty-five people. Their extent and irresistible power were largely due to atmospheric conditions. The summer of 1881 was excessively dry, and the drought had done its work nowhere more effectively than in the wide, blunt, tongue of land which lies between Saginaw bay and Lake Huron. At the northern end of this tongue is Huron County.

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Great Michigan Thumb Fires of 1881


Flint Water Crisis Timeline – February 2016 Update

 In April 2014 the City of Flint Michigan switched from water from Lake Huron provided by the city of Detroit to utilizing water taken from the Flint River. This was a cost saving move under the leadership of a succession of Flint emergency managers appointed by Michigan governor Rick Snyder. As a result of the corrosive nature of the Flint River water and mismanagement  by all of the  appointed emergency managers,  the Flint city government and by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality an unknown number of children in Flint, Michigan (estimates are in the 1000’s), were exposed to dangerous amounts of lead in their drinking water over the past 18 months. Recently health officials are investigating if 87 cased of Legionnaires disease is linked to the water crisis. 10 people have died since 2014.

Currently there is no long range plan to correct this problem. The American Red Cross has been coordinating 1000’s of volunteers who have been distributing bottled water door to door. Filters and test kits are also being distributed. Filters can treat up to 100 gallons of contaminated water.

Exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development and behavior. Even when exposed to small amounts of lead levels, children may appear inattentive, hyperactive and irritable. Children with greater lead levels may also have problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss. At high levels, lead can cause permanent brain damage and even death.


Quick Facts

  • Population of Flint Michigan (est): 100,000

  • Households: 41,000

  • Children under 5 years of age (est.): 7,000

Flint Michigan Water Crisis Timeline

November 2011

  • Governor Snyder appoints Michael Brown as emergency manager of Flint. Brown is the first of the line of four emergency managers.

August 2012

  • Governor Snyder appoints Ed Kurtz emergency manager after Michael Brown steps down.

December 2012

  • Michigan Treasury and Flint city officials review alternatives to using Detroit City Water. Treasury reviews two options; staying with the Detroit water system and using the Karegnondi Water Authority, (KWA), a new pipeline to Lake Huron water under development.

March 2013

  • Flint City Council votes to join the Karegnondi Water Authority, which is under development. However under emergency manager status the vote is non-binding and the council holds no authority.

April 2013

  • Ed Kurtz, Flint emergency manager, fails to negotiate and sign extension contract with Detroit water department citing unreliable rates. Detroit notifies city that it will end its contract with Flint in one year.

June 2013

  • Emergency manager Ed Kurtz hires Lockwood, Andrews & Newman for a plan to switch to Flint river water.
  • Karegnondi Water Authority breaks ground for water pipeline from Lake Huron
  • Emergency manager Ed Kurtz resigns

July 2013

  • Michael Brown returns to Flint to take back the role of emergency manager.

September 2013

  • Michael Brown resigns the post of Flint’s emergency manager citing family reasons.

October 2013

  • The forth appointed emergency manger, Darnell Earley steps in for outgoing Michael Brown.

March 2014

  • Emergency manager Darnell Earley refuses offer by Detroit Water Department to continue to purchase water. Notes that use of Flint River water will be temporary until KWA pipeline is completed.

April 2014

  • After receiving approval from State of Michigan regulators, City and State officials switched Flint’s water source from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River, immediately prompting citizen complaints about tap water quality.

September 2014

  • An internal report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warned that lead poisoning rates “were higher than usual for children under age 16 living in the City of Flint during the months of July, August and September, 2014.”

October 2014

  • General Motors announces it will cease using Flint water due to corrosion problems in machines due to high chlorine levels.

January 2015

  • Flint is found to be in violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act due to high levels of trihalomethanes (TTHM). This is due to Flints efforts to rid the system of E, coli contamination.
  • Flint mayor Dayne Walling announces that the Flint water is safe to drink.
  • University of Michigan’s Flint campus finds high lead levels on campus. It shuts down some drinking fountains as a result. This is considered a first report of a lead problem in Flint’s water.
  • Emergency manager Darnell Earley said Flint will not return to Detroit water citing $12m cost.
  • Darnell Earley resigns as emergency manager, Jerry Ambrose steps in.

February 2015

  • Flint residents see lead level in home drinking water at 104 parts per billion. Far exceeding EPA’s limit of 15 parts per billion.
  • EPA begins inquiries about treatment for corrosion. Michigan’s DEQ reports that a corrosion plan is in effect. This is found to be false later in the year.

April 2015

  • A Flint child is found to have confirmed lead poisoning. The source of the lead is the Flint water system. Officials shut off water to the home and connect to a neighbor’s house with a garden hose.

June 2015

  • In a leaked memo, the EPA expresses alarm over lack of corrosion control and high lead levels seen in resident water. Admits that they have no idea of the extent of the problem.

July 2015

  • Through a public records request, Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech, uncovered a July 2015 memo warning of elevated lead levels in Flint kids’ blood.

September 2015

  • MDEQ’s Brad Wurfel publicly begin stating that a study had been done on lead levels, and using those results for public relations purposes as early as September 6th, 2015. Ironically, it was used to discredit high lead in water data collected by Virginia Tech.
  • Virginia Tech University researchers test homes across Flint. One sample shows lead contamination at 13,200 per billion. 5,000 parts per billion is considered hazardous waste.
  • Flint pediatrician finds lead levels in children have doubled since the switch to Flint River water. Estimates are 4% of children have elevated blood-lead levels.

October 2015

  • Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant reported that water at Eisenhower and Freeman elementary schools, along with Brownell/Holmes STEM academies tested above 15 parts per billion for lead — the safety standard set by the federal government. One of the schools tested at more than six times the federal limit.
  • Genesee County declares public health emergency. Plans to distribute 1000’s of water filters.
  • Michigan Governor Snyder states that Flint will return to Detroit City Water. Mott Foundation pledges $10m for the $12m conversion effort since the State of Michigan has no emergency funds.
  • On Oct. 16, water started flowing again from Detroit to Flint.

November 2015

  • Challenger Karen Weaver has defeated incumbent Dayne Walling to become the first woman elected as mayor of Flint. Walling had been elected mayor twice previously — to a partial term in 2009 and a full four-year term in 2011.
  • Howard Croft, the department head responsible for oversight of Flint water operations,  resigns his position November 16.

December 2015

  • In her first month in office Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver declares a State of Man-Made Emergency due to problems with the city’s water system caused by using water from the Flint River, saying the city needs more federal help.
  • MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow launched a series of reports on the  Flint Water Crisis bringing national attention to the crisis in Michigan and the failure of emergency managers in Michigan.
  • Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant resigns.

January 2016

  • Michigan’s governor Snyder directs the Michigan State Police to distribute donated water and water filters to the community.
  • Snyder calls up the Michigan National Guard to assist in water distribution.
  • Health officials investigate Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in and around Flint to determine if it was caused by the ongoing water-contamination crisis.
  • Residents file a class-action lawsuit alleging the water was corroding city pipes and leaching lead because the state wasn’t treating it with an anti-corrosive agent, a violation of federal law.
  • Governor Snyder asks the Obama administration to declare a major disaster in Genesee County and expedite federal aid to citizens affected by the polluted water supply.
  • U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, wants leaders of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold a hearing on lead contamination in the water in Flint, saying it’s Congress’ responsibility to address “a man-made disaster created by the poor policy decisions of elected and career government officials.
  • President Obama declares that an emergency exists in the State of Michigan and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions in the area affected by contaminated water.
  • Governor Snyder reviews the Flint Water Crisis in his State of the State address. Announces $28m in state funding and announces that all email communication on the Flint crisis will be made public.
  • President Obama remarks  at the United Auto Worker’s General Motors training center in Detroit. “And I know that if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids’ health could be at risk.That’s why over the weekend, I declared a federal emergency in Flint.”

February 2016

  • Water testing coordinated by the EPA shows samples exceeding 150 part per billion. At this level filters may be ineffective for removal of lead from drinking water.
  • Congressional oversight hearings begin on the Flint Water Crisis. U.S. Marshals asked to “hunt … down” former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley to force him to testify in hearings.
  • Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller introduces $1 Billion emergency aid bill to replace Flint’s water system.

Credits for the information provided by Michigan Public Radio, Mlive.com, US Census, US Centers for Disease Control, MSNBC, ABC News and various news and information services.


Volunteering in Flint- 5 Things to Know

Groups and individuals from all over the United States are flying into Flint Bishop Airport or driving hours to donate their time and skills to alleviate the disaster of lead contamination with the Flint water system. Over the next several weeks, 1000’s of volunteers will converge on this metropolitan area of 38,000 homes and 100,000 people. If you’re planning on coming, thanks for your service! Here are a couple of things to know that may help you hit the ground running.

IMG_0922Come Prepared to Work – You may have signed up for a specific job but if there is an immediate need you WILL be placed where you’re needed. The front line job is going door-to-door passing out bottled water, filters and test kits. (It’s the best) Working in the warehouse is also a possibility. Therefore be a good Scout and Be Prepared. This includes coats and clothing that you’re comfortable in working in and getting dirty. Wear work or hiking boots. Warm socks. Gloves and hats. Bring a snack, some cash and even stuff to share with your crew like gum or hard candy. By the end of the day you and your crew should be working in unison and small comforts are wonderful.

Positive Attitude – Keep in mind that everyone your working with is a volunteer. IMG_0924Even the trained DR (Disaster Recovery), people are only getting their expenses paid otherwise they are working for free. There may be times where nothing is going on and Red Cross and DR folk are on the phone coordinating their next move. Things change quickly and be adaptive. Be supportive and positive as these guys get stressed they been doing this for weeks. When you knock on doors be positive and helpful. If you get a disgruntled individual tell them your here to help but respect their privacy.

Educate Yourself – Read the labels on the IMG_0925water filters, test kits and pamphlets that your will be passing out. Read the instructions out loud to your crew. Talk about it. Residents are anxious and will be asking YOU questions. You’re wearing a Red Cross vest and ID, you’re considered the “expert” and the authority at their door. If you don’t know, tell them you will find out and get an answer from the para-professionals. If your team doesn’t know say so and be prepared to give the residents resources and phone numbers to someone who can help. When you get back to the ERV report what you have learned. If they have kids, say so. If you think they are a shut-in, point it out. If they are an extended family in the house get another case of water and make a note of it. If they want nothing to do with you, say so. That is your job! Your efforts today will bring better results tomorrow.

Keep Your Eyes Open for Each Other – The dangers of going door to door is IMG_0928ACCIDENTS. Cars, Dogs and falls on ice are the enemy in the winter. Work in pairs or a team of three. Yell out when a car is coming. Tell everyone within earshot that you’re on a patch of ice. When you knock on a door yell RED CROSS loud! DO NOT go into a yard with Dog or Guard Dog warnings posted. DO NOT go into a house unless its an emergency. Stay within sight of each other. Put the cell phone away. If a porch seems ready to cave in, back off go to the side door. If you get hurt say so and go back to the ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) Our crew had no incidents and this resulted in over 150 homes visited and two pallets of water distributed.

Be Prepared to be Amazed – You will be IMG_0931working in a National Disaster Area. You will see Red Cross ERVs crossing the city everywhere and your will see everyday life going on. It may seem like chaos but you’re here helping out. You will knock on the door of a house that your sure is vacant only to be answered by an 89 year old who isn’t sure about how to get the filter on. You will see a young guy taking care of five kids during the day and he works at midnight. You will smell weed. You will be offered gifts. You will see folk making the best of what they have and you will gain a new respect for them. It’s a life changing experience and I understand why some people are hooked on being a DR groupie.

If you’re interested in helping our fellow humans living within this Flint Water crisis consider volunteering a day or donate. Contact the Flint American Red Cross at, 1401 S. Grand Traverse St. in Flint. Hours will be Monday –Friday 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday,   9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. “It is expected that this distribution effort will continue for some time and it will take a lot of volunteers to help,” Adults can help with door-to-door deliveries. Volunteers ages 13-17 must have a parent come with them, and they will not go door-to-door. To register your group email: victoria.fryer (@) redcross.org.

1881 Michigan Fire Forever Changed the Thumb

Thumb Fire Buggy

This post of the 1881 Michigan Fire is one of our most viewed. 137 years ago over a series of several days a devastating fire overtook the Thumb. Here is a synopsis of the event and the aftermath.   

Years of Lumbering Debris and Drought Created Fuel for 1881 Michigan Fire

The fires of September 4th through the 6th 1881, commonly known as the Thumb Fire, took hundreds of lives and burned well over one million acres.  The fire destroyed major parts of Tuscola, Huron, Sanilac, and St. Clair counties. It forever altered the landscape of the Upper Thumb and its effect is seen in the area today.

The Army was summoned to the area and asked to assess the disaster and seek its cause. The report was issued the Spring of 1882.

“The summer of 1881 was excessively dry, and the drought had done its work nowhere more effectively than in the wide, blunt, tongue of land which lies between Saginaw bay and Lake Huron. At the northern end of this tongue is Huron County.  South of Huron is the counties of Tuscola and Sanilac, the latter bordering on the lake. Lapeer County lies south partly of Tuscola and partly of Sanilac. These are the counties that suffered from the great fires.


In September no penetrating rain had fallen for almost two months. Almost every stream was dry. Many wells had become empty. The swamps had been burned to hard clay by the sun, fiercer in its heat than it had been for years before.  The vegetation of the fields and woods had become tinder. The earth was baked and cracked, the heat having penetrated to an unusual depth. Ten years before, a great fire had burned over the country, and had left standing acres of dead timber, and the sapless trunks and dry branches made splendid food for the flames. Some of the old trees had blown down, and the forests were full of ” wind-falls ” and of great piles of dead timber which are called ” slashings ” by the people of the settlements. Everything was ready to feed the fires when they finally came. Old roots, pine tops, branches, brush heaps, timber, and the parched earth made the fuel for the burning.”

News Coverage of Michigan’s 1881 Thumb Fire Was Nationwide

The area news covered the event with more interest. Newspapers of the day files reports like the following:

1881 Michigan Fire News

“The fire appeared at Bad Axe, 20 miles northeast of Cass City, a little after 1:30 p.m. Monday September 4th. The winds had begun at noon and, according to observers, trees were broken off at the stump, boulders rolled along like pebbles, and people lifted off their feet into the air. Above the wind, a strange roar was heard, the sound of the approaching flames. Shortly after 1 pm there was darkness, as though a curtain had fallen.

Four hundred people fled to the new brick courthouse. As they watched, building after building burned around them. Thirty men pumped water from the adjoining well and kept the walls and tile roof wet. After a few minutes they had to return inside because of the heat, and another 30 would take over. Across the street, barrels of kerosene and gunpowder ignited when the hardware store burned. The store turned dark, and then blew into a bright, red glare.”

When the fire finally burned itself out, there were 282 known dead, more than 3,400 buildings destroyed, and almost 15,000 residents homeless. Many were blinded – some temporarily and some permanently – by smoke, gusting dust and flying ashes that traveled faster than a whirlwind and blotted out the sun for days. The disaster changes the landscape of Michigan’s Thumb region forever and jump started the move from lumbering to agriculture. 

The 1881 Michigan Fire Blackened the Skies of New England

In Boston and along the eastern seaboard a mysterious “yellow sky” appeared. The skies darkened shortly after dawn on Tuesday, September 6, 1881 – throughout all six New England states.  In the “forenoon,” as they called their mornings then, witnesses watched a “London fog” envelop their homes and roads.  This London fog soon took on a yellowish hue. More than a few whispered that the “Saffron Curtain”  was the sign of a divine judgement. The causes behind the odd skies of that September day were eventually traced to smoke that had traveled eastward from Michigan’s massive “Thumb Fire” that had burnt over a million acres of woodlands in Michigan’s Thumb Area all on one day, the day before.

The 1881 Fire Was the First Disaster Attended by the American Red Cross

1881 Michigan Fire Red Cross

In 1881 Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross. The organization’s first meeting had taken place in Washington DC at the home of Sen. Omar D. Conger of Michigan. Their first official disaster relief operation was the response to the Thumb Fire, and the Red Cross provided money, clothes and household items to victims of the fire. 

Red Cross chapters collected supplies, food and donations  which were coordinated and  shipped to Michigan to give aid  to 14,000 people in need of help.

Chilling Eyewitness Accounts of the 1881 Michigan Fire

“Frances Cuza, a pretty-faced pretty-faced Polish girl, with ladylike manners and good English speech, wearing a Derby hat with some tips of peacock feathers in it, evidently relief” goods, told the Inquirer about the scene at the bridge and the death of her mother (the mother also of Mrs. Kubccki). She said her father was just beside her, and her mother died of suffocation in his arms. The girl’s lip quivered, her voice faltered, and her eyes tided with tears as she said: “We did not know my mother was dying till it was all over.” She said the fire was preceded by a wind-storm, and that lights, blue, red and green, were seen in all directions, and the atmosphere about them smelled of sulphur ; that stones an inch in diameter tad red-hot fell among them, on their clothes, and burned them, showing as proof a well-shaped arm frightfully scarred from the wrist to the elbow.”

Sources Consulted