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home : opinion : columnists April 29, 2016

7/24/2014 9:35:00 AM
Fire on the mountain creates mountain of need
Bill Forhan

Fire is an ever present danger here in Eastern Washington and last week we were reminded once again just how sudden and devastating it can be.

Our friends and neighbors in Pateros and Brewster will never be the same after last weeks firestorm wiped out entire neighborhoods in those communities. The good news is no one died. The bad news is many are now homeless.

It will take some time yet before the fires are extinguished and the threat of more devastation eliminated, But it will take years for those who have lost everything to recover from the pain of that loss.

Having lived in many different parts of the country I have learned that no matter where you live there is always some kind of natural disaster that can suddenly and unexpectedly change lives forever. In the mid-west we spent many evenings huddled in our basement worried about the latest "severe thunderstorm" that could blow through like a freight train turning giant oak trees to kindling and homes to piles of unrecognizable debris. In Southern California we enjoyed the thrill ride of sudden and severe earthquakes that collapsed buildings and freeway bridges causing massive disruption and changing lives without warning. And in my native Montana I still remember the earthquake near Yellowstone Park that buried one of our favorite childhood campgrounds and created a new lake by collapsing a mountain into a Madison River canyon. Locally, we cannot forget the terrible tragedy that occurred this spring in Oso where 42 people were confirmed killed in a sudden and unexpected mudslide.

The truth is we live in a dangerous world. None of us are free from the catastrophe that can befall us in a moment of shear terror created by a capricious and arbitrary act of nature. While our governor chose to politicize the tragedy in Okanogan County over the weekend by claiming it was the new reality brought on by our disregard for our environment, the reality is that no one can predict or prevent these events. But now is not the time to argue the obvious attempt to grab power by our ill informed governor of the moment.

Now is the time to come together to address the immediate needs of those who have lost everything. It is how we reach out to those most directly affected by these events that defines our humanity and compassion. It is what defines us as a community.

Already aid is pouring into the communities of Omak and Chelan in the form of clothing and basic supplies. Most immediate needs are for food, clothing, personal hygiene items, gift cards and baby necessities. But the need is huge and will continue for some time to come. Many communities are currently without electricity meaning basic daily activities like cooking and refrigeration are problems. And with many city services damaged simple things like potable water may be in short supply.

There is much to be done and we can all help. The following is a list of organizations that are currently set up to help:

1) The Community Foundation of North Central Washington is working together with the Apple Valley Red Cross to raise funds. They do not accept donations of goods. You can call the Community Foundation of NCW at 509-663-7716, donate on line at cfncw.org or send a check to their office at: 9 S Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee, WA 98801 make sure to write "Fire Relief" on your check.

2) Les Schwab Tire stores in Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Chelan and Brewster are accepting donations of goods at their stores. They will arrange delivery to the relief centers in Chelan, Brewster and Omak.

3) The Chelan PUD offices in Leavenworth, Wenatchee and Chelan are accepting donations of money or gift cards. They do not accept donations of food, clothing or other goods.

There will undoubtedly be many other churches and organizations working to help in the weeks ahead. We will endeavor to keep an updated list on our website.

Bill Forhan can be reached at 509-548-5286 or publisher@leavenworthecho.com.

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