Local individuals and groups offer help to wildfire victims
Crook County is fortunate that the recent explosion of wildfires in Oregon have not threatened any local properties or structures.
But that hasn't stopped the community from trying to help people throughout the state as they see their towns, homes and lands face the brunt of multiple large fires that have consumed more than 1 million acres.
This past week, Crook County Fire and Rescue, in support of the Oregon State Fire Marshals efforts, deployed resources to the Lionshead Fire.
"CCFR resources are part of a task force of engines from Central Oregon structural agencies," explained Fire Chief Matt Smith. "These resources are typically deployed for structural protection, yet they are trained and equipped to support wildland fire suppression efforts as well."
Smith could not say for sure how long they will be deployed.
As these efforts take place away from the community, local efforts have emerged in Crook County. While many evacuees were provided shelter at the more spacious Deschutes County Fairgrounds, the Crook County Fairgrounds began offering free emergency boarding for animals displaced by the fires. Two hundred 10x10 stalls were made available as were nine holding pens.
Meanwhile, Hearts of Prineville, a new organization with a to "bring positivity back to our community" began accepting donations of consumable items and "decent boxes to sort and organize." The group is asking for help from people who are headed to evacuees to deliver items to come fill the trailer.
"We need volunteers so we can finish sorting everything," the organization stated on its Facebook page.
As this is taking place, the Prineville branch of a horse-riding group, the 40 Something Cowgirls, is collecting donations to send to wildfire victims. According to group member Carolyn Ellertson, they staged a horse trailer at the Ray's Food Place parking lot and spread the word that they needed donations of sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, towels, suitcases and more.
"Oh my God did people come through," she exclaimed.
In 24 hours, the truck was filled to the point the group struggled to shut its door. Another trailer was taken out to the site to continue to collect donations.
This weekend, the Crook County FFA Alumni and Chapter will invite people to help harvest an entire crop of potatoes at its land lab on Barnes Butte Road. All of the potatoes planted will go to support the people affected by the wildfires. People wanting to participate are encouraged to contact the Prineville-Crook County Chamber or fill out the volunteer form on the chamber's Facebook page.
While these efforts to help wildfire victims across the state continue, Crook County's emergency management team is trying to better prepare the community if a large wildfire strikes the local area. Specifically, they are asking people to sign up for the county's emergency alerting system.
"We are constantly trying to get more people signed up for that," said Vicky Ryan, Crook County's emergency preparedness coordinator. "There is a constant potential here for fires and that (alert system) is a great way to alert people in an area where there is a fire. We would be able to contact them and let them know what the evacuation levels are or what the threat assessment is."
People provide their address and a way for emergency management personnel to contact them. Ryan said they can use a multitude of media from landlines or cellphones to email. That data enables them to either contact people who are in evacuation zones or in harm's way or contact everybody on the list if the disaster is widespread.
"The list is not shared," Ryan stressed. "It is used strictly through the (Crook County) Sheriff's Office and search and rescue."
The service is not new, although emergency management officials try to spur interest in it on an annual basis, and the recent surge of wildfires and subsequent evacuations provided a good opportunity to encourage people to sign up for it.
Meanwhile, as people continue to deal with the heavy smoke and poor air quality brought by the recent fires or deal with smoke from fires in the future, health officials offer some suggestions to minimize smoke impact in the home.
"Keep your windows and your house closed," Ryan said. "If you do use the DIY box fan filter system, put the filter on the front of the fan, not in the back of it, because you could burn out the fan motor, which is a fire hazard."
Ryan added that people should avoid smoking in their home and utilize HVAC fans or bathroom fans to draw air out of the home and circulate filtered air in the home.
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