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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community response to wildfires is heartening

If compassion could douse flames, the wildfires that sped through this region would’ve been contained in an instant.

Right after evacuation orders were issued last Sunday, social media lit up. People offered trucks, storage space, tools and food and water.

Some people rushed to fight the fires, but they had to be turned away if they weren’t registered as volunteers. (If you’d like to be trained as a volunteer, call 211 during business hours, Mondays through Fridays).

But people still found ways to help.

The area near Wellpinit, a small community on the Spokane Indian Reservation, was particularly hard hit by the Cayuse Mountain fire. The water well busted. Power lines burned down, causing an extensive power outage. And while the fire stopped short of town, it burned many homes nearby.

As soon as the word got out that donations were being accepted for victims, contributions poured in. During Thursday’s one-day drive, clothing, water, food and furniture quickly accumulated.

One woman canceled her yard sale, and delivered the items to a drop-off site in downtown Spokane. A couple of homeless people contributed what they could. A 92-year-old woman wrote a $100 check, saying, “We have it pretty good. At least we have a roof over our heads.”

Jamie Sijohn, an advertising executive, organized the downtown drop-off after evacuating her mother. She said of the fire, “Seeing it firsthand and experiencing it firsthand, it was overwhelming.”

As she watched a steady stream of people drop off donations, she said, “The outpouring of support has been amazing.”

The Wellpinit school warehouse quickly filled as shipments of clothing, bottled water and personal items kept arriving from neighboring communities.

Wendy Wynecoop, who is on the board of the Spokane Tribal Network, said of the donations, “It’s made all the difference.” Her aunt and uncle lost their home to the fire.

The community response brought to mind last year’s windstorms, when people pitched in with chain saws, generators and offers of a place to stay.

It’s comforting to know we live in a place where people are eager to pitch in at a moment’s notice.

The fires near Wellpinit are still burning. The Beacon Hill fire, north and east of Spokane, is 100 percent contained. The Yale Road fire south of town is mostly contained.

Firefighters caught a break when the high winds died down, but they’re not in the clear.

Fires could ignite at any time, and we’ve just seen how quickly they can spread. So people need to stay tuned to the news. The Spokesman-Review website will keep you updated.

But while Mother Nature is unpredictable, the compassion of this community is not. If you are an unfortunate victim of a wildfire, you can be certain that help is on the way.

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