By Scott Wilson
Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader
The fires in the Northwest, Okanogan, Ferry, and Chelan counties in Washington have been devastating. Here is a plea from a fellow publisher, and some suggestions for opportunities to help out.
Editors and publishers of Washington’s community newspapers:
Your brothers and sisters of the community newspapers located in the fire-ravaged Okanogan, Ferry and Chelan counties are busy trying to keep their communities safe. The fires are still raging; evacuations are still in effect; homes are being lost today and more will be lost tomorrow. Dry winds and no rain on the horizon.
As a native of the Okanogan valley and timberland owner in Ferry County, I know how tinder-dry the forests and sageland are. I have heard from many people about burned out homes, close calls, lost livestock, and a general struggle to survive to fight the fires and help each other out another day. Three young men, all of them with local roots, died in the Methow. These are tough, hardy people, but they need help from the outside.
The infusion of donations from those communities that are not in the path of the fire is a cause of hope and celebration from those areas affected. Every single donation is needed. The eyes and ears of the thousands of people still in the smokey, often fiery maelstrom are searching for word of help and tangible assistance from the outside.
I’m posting this today to urge you, if you haven’t already, to editorialize about the need to make contributions to support the communities in need. Cash (or credit) donations are extremely important, both to give the non-profit agencies on the ground the flexibility to get just what’s needed, and to let them support local businesses who are likewise walking along the brink of survival.
Here are some targets of donations that have my confidence, based on people on the ground who are trustworthy, including local publishers. I’ll tell you up-front that I am biased toward local organizations — there have been complaints about the high administrative expenses of some well-known national organizations, based on experiences during last year’s wildfires in the Methow.
• Okanogan County, home of three of the largest fires and offering family support. Okanogan County Community Action Council. Visit the website, www.occac.com. All funds donated go to disaster relief. They are very local with boots on the ground. The Methow (Twisp, Winthrop) are in Okanogan County along with Omak, Okanogan, Riverside, Conconully, Malott and Tonasket.
• Regional support, includes Okanogan and Chelan counties: Community Foundation of North Central Washington. Visit the website, www.cfncw.org; you’ll see “Community Fund” options to direct funds toward one area or another. This fund reaches Chelan, also Okanogan County.
• A fund targeted at people who were burned out of their homes in the Chelan area. The fund is managed by Chelan Valley Hope, a nonprofit community service organization based in Chelan. The funding appeal comes through a web platform called “Give Naked” as “Give #104,” here is the web link: http://givenaked.org/
• Fund for the firefighters who were killed or injured in the Methow Valley: www.Gofundme.com/methowfirefighters. It’s legit.
• Aid for injured or homeless livestock: Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office has an Emergency Animal Response Services Team, providing shelters and food. Checks only, to Okanogan County Sheriff, attn Deputy Yarnell, 123 N. 5th Ave, Room 200, Okanogan WA 98840. Memo line must say “Animal Relief/Rescue.”
• Volunteers: The DNR is still looking for qualified volunteers. See information at this link: www.dnr.wa.gov/wildfirevolunteer.
Money is best!
Material: Coolers, tents, cots, sleeping bags, diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, paper plates, paper cups, flashlights, batteries, playpens, bandaids. Equipment like generators, even trailers or campers for temporary housing. NO CLOTHING at this time.
If you want some background on the fires, updates as of today:
• There are 16 wildfires active, consuming over 600,000 total acres.
• The Okanogan County fires alone have burned 370,000 acres, setting an unfortunate new state record.
• 200 homes are confirmed as destroyed; many more are unknown.
• Evacuations are in effect for these communities, all of them in Okanogan County: Aenes Valley, Conconully, Twisp River Road, Tunk Mountain area, Chilliest Valley, Disautel, Moses Mountain. Areas on alert are Tonasket, Twisp, Winthrop, Havillah area, Gardner Creek Road near Republic, Nespelem.
• Air quality in the Omak area is considered “hazardous.”
• The Washington National Guard has sent 700 soldiers into action; helicopter crews from several Western states are engaged; fire crews have arrived from as far away as Australia.
Thanks for anything you can do to encourage your communities to help North Central Washington in its time of greatest need. (end)
Scott Wilson is a Publisher at Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader.