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Capital Region volunteers provide relief for California wildfires

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WRGB) - "Everywhere is just smokey. It's eerie. It's kind of scary. It's weird."

Patrick Horan is volunteering with the Red Cross in Yuba City, California -- about an hour south of the Camp Fire where more than 60 people died and more than 600 people are still missing.

According to the EPA Air Quality Index, the air there has a rating of "very unhealthy," and there is risk for serious health effects.

Horan says most people, including himself, are wearing breathing masks, and he says he can see smoke for miles.

"Even in the middle of the day, and it's a sunny day in California, it looks just brown. The air is brown and it's thick and choking with smoke," Horan said. "And there's very little breeze to clear it away."

Horan says he is helping to put together fire kits full of supplies like breathing masks and cough drops and giving them out for free.

"We've built over 1,000 kits in the last two days and we just built another 500-600 this afternoon," he said.

Horan, an Albany native, says this is his fourth deployment in the last three months.

He went to North Carolina for Hurricane Florence, Florida for Hurricane Michael, and Schoharie for the deadly limousine crash.

With one disaster after another, Red Cross Chief Communications Officer, Kimmy Venter, says it's been exhausting on volunteers.

"What we're struggling with right now is that a lot of our volunteers have been out multiple times and so some of them are just tapped out, understandably," Venter said.

Venter says they need new recruits to help relieve the burden on volunteers like Horan who have already deployed several times.

Horan says he is staying on the West Coast through Thanksgiving, his first away from his family.

But Horan says from New York to California and beyond, he will always answer the call to help.

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"This is our obligation to each other as Americans, and as humans, to stand up and help each other in times of need," he said.

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