California post opens doors to fire evacuees, first responders
The American Legion Family of Post 519 in Palm Springs, Calif., opened their doors to aid those impacted by the Cranston fire in many ways, including serving up breakfast to the youth evacuated from the Idyllwild Arts Camp. Photo courtesy American Legion Auxiliary Unit 519

California post opens doors to fire evacuees, first responders

The 13,139-acre Cranston fire in the Idyllwild, Calif., area is almost contained. However, when the fire erupted on July 25, Post 519 American Legion Family members immediately came to the rescue of those in need by opening their doors to evacuees, first responders and community members.

The news that Post 519 was serving as a shelter was spread by text, radio and media. Post Commander Mike Templeton sent a text message to all Legion members asking for assistance with a response that was overwhelming and immediate. “I was pleased with our Sons, Auxiliary and Riders for their support,” he said. “This event energized the idea that we here at The American Legion in Palm Springs are more than capable of becoming a Southern California emergency operations center.”

Tom McLean, member and operator of Post 519’s ham radio station, K6TAL, communicated that the post was open and provided detailed directions to first responders and evacuees on how to get to the post. Then Templeton reached out to Post 519 member and Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon about the post operating as a relief shelter. This opened the doors to local news channels making the announcement as well, which resulted in phone calls from the community offering to provide water, food, blankets and other supplies for the first responders and victims of the Cranston fire.

“When it was broadcasted that we can help, it was amazing. Everybody from Palm Springs became helpful,” Templeton said. “God bless The American Legion and God bless Palm Springs, because they really did a good job of reaching out to Idyllwild folks.”

When news broke that Post 519 was going to serve breakfast to youth from the Idyllwild Arts Camp who had to evacuate because of the fire, Palm Springs restaurant Broken Yolk Cafe provided the food to serve the more than 75 kids and counselors. Many of them enjoyed a second breakfast from the post, which Auxiliary and Sons members cooked and served.

“Our folks jumped on our board,” Templeton said. “We had so many here cooking breakfasts, entertaining the kids. It brought smiles to everybody that was here.”

Templeton said the ability to serve as a shelter for the fire victims was made possible by local philanthropist Harold Matzner, who generously donated a large sum of money to provide Post 519 with a new roof and several air conditioners.

“We are ready to be the emergency operations center that we can be. With any Southern California emergency, we can open up our doors and we can support and feed people,” he said.

The American Legion’s new National Emergency Fund (NEF) Preparation Guide provides Legion Family members with the steps to take before, during and after a natural disaster. It also serves as a reminder that NEF is available to help eligible victims affected. Learn more about NEF at