Marc Brooks grew up in Colton, so when the wildland fires of September hit so close to his hometown and the evacuation notice was given, he wanted to help.
He said he noticed a lot of social media posts about issues with evacuating large animals, especially horses and cows. Thinking there was a way he could be of assistance, he set up a Facebook page to connect people who needed help evacuating animals, people with vehicles that could be used for transport and those who had space for re-homing the large animals.
The logistics came together, and Brooks was able to help unite volunteers with those who needed help getting their animals to safety.
During this time, Brooks became acquainted with Norma Jean Washburn of the Salmon River Grange, who was heading up a survivor outreach program. She needed someone to go to the small town of Otis to check in on the needs and the work being done there.
"Our local news talked about the Riverside and Beachie Creek fires," Brooks said, "but we didn't hear much about the Echo Mountain Complex fire that burned more than 2,500 acres, more than 1,200 structures and 300 homes in the small town of Otis."
Brooks said many people are still displaced in Otis, and it is an ongoing project to get the area cleaned up for rebuilds.
Most of the homes were manufactured houses, and Brooks said many of the residents were uninsured or underinsured. So, cleanup of properties was an important need. He said it costs $18,000 to $25,000 to hire professionals to do property cleanup.
Brooks joined up with the newly-formed Cascade Relief Team 501(c)3 consisting of Bethany Howe, Corey Rivera and Meylinda and Tye Smalls, who had come together to help Otis rebuild.
The group has been working on structure and debris removal, falling trees and scraping lots. There is also a lot of sifting through ash left behind after the fire. The volunteers need to separate ash with asbestos for hazardous waste removal. They sift through the non-contaminated ash to remove metal before disposing of it and to find personal belongings.
"We have found wedding rings and other special mementos for their owners," Brooks said.
Brooks noted there are 25 properties completed with about 65 more to go. CRT is still in need of volunteers to help with cleanup as well as donations to meet needs for new housing.
Brooks credits his employers, Credit Life, for supporting and giving him the time to help with the Otis project. He has done the web design and organizes the financial and volunteer efforts. For more information, check out their Facebook page: Cascade Relief Team Resources.
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