Wildfire Response Update – After Washington’s ‘Unprecedented Cataclysm’

Easing the path toward wildfire recovery

by Jacqueline Koch
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Twisp is a small town in Okanogan County, surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and steeped in back country charm. But sadly, it is no stranger to disaster. Last summer, wildfires struck for the second season in a row, claiming the lives of three firefighters, and delivering a devastating blow to a community still struggling to get back on its feet from the fires of the previous year. One of the many blazes, the Okanogan Complex fire, eventually grew to become the largest wildfire in Washington state history prompting Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee to describe the event as “an unprecedented cataclysm.” Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers arrived in Washington to mount one of the largest disaster responses in state history.

Red Cross volunteer Kay MacCready. A retired mental health counselor, MacCready lives in the town neighboring Twisp, in Wenatchee. She provided assistance in evacuation shelters two summers in a row, even as wildfires veered wildly near her own home.

Kay MacCready 5

Last summer, at the Chelan evacuation shelter, Kay recounted helping a man, still in singed clothing, who wept in the shelter after having to put his horses down. “The fire moved so quickly, he was going to have a hard time recovering,” she explained.

Easing the path toward recovery is another way Red Cross provides support after a large disaster, providing extensive experience and drawing from established community partnerships well after the crisis has passed.

“Red Cross provided long-term assistance after the fires of 2014 and we are still there, with our partners, to continue the work that remains to be done following the 2015 wildfire disaster,” said Kriss Salgado, long-term recovery manager for the Red Cross.

Alongside the Long-Term Recovery Group, Salgado assists local residents to chart their individual recovery and to ensure housing and basic needs are met as they get back on their feet. “Red Cross recognizes that each household faces unique challenges when recovering from the impact of a wildfire. For this reason we collaborate with local partners to ensure success.”

 

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