Local volunteers off to help with fires

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A hot shot team stands by after lighting a burnout fire in an effort to control the spread of a portion of Table Mountain wildfire, north of Ellensburg.

WALLA WALLA — Two local American Red Cross volunteers were deployed Sunday to assist with response wildfires in Eastern Washington, according to Jerry Cummins, executive director of the Blue Mountain chapter.

Jill Becker and Glenn Hill were sent to Red Cross headquarters in Ellensburg for support for the Wenatchee Complex and Taylor Bridge fires. Their primary responsibilities will be to help with shelter work, including housing and food.

As of Sunday, the Wenatchee Complex fire in Chelan County covered more than 66 square miles acres and is at 30 percent containment, according to Tawni Solberg, emergency services director for the Benton-Franklin chapter of the Red Cross.

Fire continues to burn around the city of Wenatchee and around the First Creek area near Lake Chelan. The Table Mountain Complex fires have covered about 47 square miles at seven percent containment, and the Okanogan Fire Complex has burned nearly 16 square miles and is now 18 percent contained.

In Yakima County, The Wild Rose Fire is burning about 4.5 square miles west of Naches, Wash.

Concern about widespread lightning strikes remains high, Solberg said in communication to Red Cross directors. Chapters are being asked to check availability of volunteers.

Since Red Cross operations began on Sept. 9 for the fires, almost 500 meals have been served and more than 3,200 snacks, Solberg said. The air quality is a big problem for those in the fire areas and she and other officials are ramping up for a possible increase in population at two emergency shelters.

“I find it is difficult to imagine citizens so geographically close to us are involved with such devastation and destruction,” Cummins said. “Families are being displaced, their pets and livestock are being lost, homes are being destroyed and, of course, people’s livelihood and their way of life are drastically being altered and in some cases maybe changed for a lifetime.”

The American Red Cross is working alongside government agencies to attempt to bring assistance to those residents, he added.

The organization is accepting cash donations to assist in the relief effort. Cash, Cummins explained, “is much more usable at this time than donations of goods because of the ability to use the funds for what is immediately needed.” The money will go toward food, clothing, heavy equipment, temporary livestock corrals, animal supplies and more.

“Any donations made through our chapter and identified for relief efforts for these fires will immediately be transferred to the proper relief accounts. I guess this is a good example of ‘neighbors helping neighbors’ in a time of need.”

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