Friday, August 21, 2015

How to help wildfire victims across the Inland Northwest

Posted By and on Fri, Aug 21, 2015 at 2:44 PM

click to enlarge From Omak west toward the Colville Reservation. - SCOTT A. LEADINGHAM
  • Scott A. Leadingham
  • From Omak west toward the Colville Reservation.

Right now, there are 66 weather alert items on the homepage of KREM 2 news: wind advisories for Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties — some of the hardest hit by the still out-of-control fires burning in the past week (this map shows where all active fires are located) — as well as the ever-present fire weather warnings for basically all of the Inland Northwest, along with blowing dust advisories and poor air quality alerts. The entire region is under a red flag warning, currently in effect until 11 pm tonight, with wind gusts in the Okanogan Valley predicted up to 45 mph.

President Obama this morning signed a Declaration of Emergency for all of Washington state, which sends federal aid our way via FEMA. There's no way around it — the outlook right now, and through this weekend, is bleak. Some are even comparing the current situation to the Great Idaho Fire disaster that happened 105 years ago yesterday, on Aug. 20, 1910, that scorched 3 million acres in two days, killed 87 firefighters and destroyed five towns. 

As unnerving as it is also inspiring, the Washington state Department of Natural Resources has put out a call — for the first time in state history — for volunteer citizens to help on the fire lines. 

While many of us are protected by the concrete embrace of the city, it's too easy to feel helpless or guilty that we aren't able to help stop this unprecedented modern disaster. From monetary donations to disaster relief organizations like the local Red Cross chapters, to dropping off supplies to give our hard-working firefighters' what little relief we can, Inlander staff have complied a list of resources and ways we can all help out during this troubling time:

Where to donate monetary support:

Where to donate items and other physical resources:
  • Joe Pakootas, who ran for election to Washington's 5th Congressional District seat last fall, is helping collect donations to help those displaced by fires around Colville. A list of items needed can be found here, and donors can drop off supplies this Sunday and Monday (Aug. 23-24) between 10 am-3 pm at the Pakootas campaign headquarters in Spokane (1410 W. Dean). Volunteers to transport supplies to Colville on Tuesday afternoon are also needed.
  • Local radio station KEY 101 FM is helping host a donation drive to collect supplies for firefighters at several Spokane and Coeur d'Alene locations, as mentioned via this post on the station's Facebook page. The donation drive is part of a larger effort spearheaded by Spokane resident Katie Marie Rafter, who asks that people please only donate items that are mentioned on the provided list.
Organizations offering animal transport and shelter:

With much of the fires' impact hitting rural areas, humans aren't the only species being displaced.
  • The Washington State Animal Response Team has created a Google survey/application where people can sign up to offer to provide animal supplies, shelter and other resources.
  • A Facebook group started by local citizens called Emergency Displaced Animals and Helpers serves as a resource for those offering to help transport and house pets and livestock affected by fires, and a place for those forced to evacuate to find help.
  • Another Facebook page called Chelan and Okanogan Wildfires Lost and Found Pets is a resource for those whose animals may have gotten loose during an evacuation.  
We know this list is not comprehensive. If you have suggestions of legitimate efforts to support the countless people and animals affected by wildfires, please email [email protected] 
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