Sandi Hodges from Big Lake will be spending Christmas in a college gymnasium in California -- and that's fine by her.

"I actually can't think of a better place I'd rather be right now," Hodges said.

Hodges, a Red Cross volunteer, was deployed to Santa Barbara, Calif. as a nurse to help with the devastating Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara County. The wildfire has burned about 275,000 acres.

Hodges is working at an evacuation shelter in Santa Barbara. She has been taking care of people who left their homes without medication, and is helping people who may have breathing problems from the smoke.

"There's so much need here. It just feels good to meet the needs of people and be there for them," she said.

After a two-week deployment, Hodges expects to return home to Big Lake on New Year's Day. The Alaska Red Cross deployed 11 volunteers in all to the Thomas Fire.

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