July 31, 2014 in City, Region

Donations for wildfire victims pile up; send money instead, officials say

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Pat Rushing, Airway Heights mayor, places a bag of bedding on the grow pile of donated items for victims of the Carlton Complex, July 21, 2014, at KHQ television studio courtyard. Says Rushing, “The Airway Heights community is similar to the Brewster and Pateros communities. They would be doing the some for us if needed.” Cash and check donations are being collected by the American Red Cross.
(Full-size photo)

PATEROS, Wash. – After the largest wildfire in Washington’s history destroyed hundreds of homes and burned hundreds of square miles in north-central Washington, donations poured in.

Officials are thankful for the gifts, but they’re now pleading with the public to stop donating goods and asking them to donate money instead. They have enough, perhaps too much stuff.

“I think donations might very well be a second disaster,” Jennifer Dolge, director of donor services and communications for the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, told the Wenatchee World. “There’s just so much stuff and now they have to figure out what to do with it all.”

Donations for Carlton Complex fire victims now fill up three warehouses, two gymnasiums, community distribution centers and several semitrucks that have not been unloaded. Tens of thousands of diapers, truckloads of dog food and pallets of water came in the days after the fire destroyed homes in Pateros and the Methow Valley.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers urged people to donate money instead of items.

On Tuesday, Rogers said an army of volunteers and emergency workers worked from sunrise to late into the afternoon, moving donated items from the National Guard Armory in Okanogan to a larger warehouse at the Fairgrounds. From there, it will go to the old Pateros grocery store, which will serve as a long-term solution for providing supplies to fire victims, thanks to the generosity of a donor, Rogers said.

“I’ve got a full detachment of the National Guard, as well as volunteers, public works employees; they started at 7 a.m. and they’re still going,” he said. “It’s the same story everywhere – we don’t need more goods. Not in Twisp, or Winthrop, Brewster, Pateros or the tribes.”

The donations are getting to fire victims, Rogers said. People have been coming in to the donation centers to pick up clothing, bedding, nonperishable food, toiletries and other necessities.

Volunteers, the National Guard and other organizations have also been taking items by the truckload out into communities and neighborhoods affected by fires to make sure people have what they need to get by.

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 firefighters continue to battle the 392-square-mile fire. As of Wednesday, the Carlton Complex fire was 67 percent contained.

Even though temperatures reached the triple digits, fire crews have been able to stop the fire from threatening more homes.

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