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Marc Brooks joined up with Cascade Relief Team to help 'Trapper Ben' after he lost his Estacada home.

COURTESY PHOTO: MARC BROOKS - Cody Walker of Reach Out Worldwide and Marc Brooks of Cascade relief Team pose for a photo at the Bootleg fire.Marc Brooks grew up in Colton, and back in September 2021 when the wildland fires hit so close to his childhood home, he wanted to help.

Brooks said he noticed how many people from his hometown were posting on Facebook that they needed help evacuating their livestock, so he took to social media and set up a page where people could connect with needs and secure vehicles that could help transport animals for temporary relocation.

Brooks joined up with the newly formed Cascade Relief Team 501(c)3. The team began working on structure and debris removal, felling trees and scraping lots in areas devastated by the wildfires. One of the steps in cleanup is sifting through ash left behind after the fires. The volunteers need to separate ash with asbestos for hazardous waste removal. They sifted through the non-contaminated ash to remove metal, and they sifted in order to find person belongings.

Now Brooks and the team have a project close to home. In August, Ben Sudul, better known as "Trapper Ben," lost his Skull Ranch home in Estacada in a raging fire. The 89-year-old Korean War veteran's home was a total loss.

"I came across Ben a few times in the community," Brooks said. "The first time I met him was when I was volunteering at Oral Hull Camp for the Blind. After seeing the story of him losing his home to fire, I knew exactly what to do. I got in touch with the family and offered to organize and lead a volunteer cleanup. We will be doing this on Saturday, Sept. 25. You can sign up to help by messaging them on the Cascade Relief Team Facebook page."

After Ben's Cleanup, CRT will start on the Bootleg Fire cleanup, its largest cleanup to date, set for the end of September. Volunteers are needed with heavy equipment and chain saws, as well as boots on the ground for helping bag and sift ash.

COURTESY PHOTO: CRT - CRT volunteers work at a fire relief site.

CRT has already been active with Bootleg Fire Relief. The group recently led a convoy of 40 trucks filled with hay and donations for the farmers affected by fires in Bly, Oregon. They collaborated with Timber Unity to put out more than 60 collection barrels for housewares and necessities that were taken to the Bly Resource Center. They joined up with Reach Out Worldwide, which took CRT to Lowe's Home Improvement and purchased more than $5,000 worth of generators and tools for the Bootleg Fire survivors.

The estimated cost for the cleanup, including equipment rentals and dumping fees -- along with road improvements and solar sheds for each dwelling as this area is off the power grid and roads are the responsibility of individuals -- is estimated at close to $500,000.

Brooks said the Salmon River Grange Distribution Center is still going strong and continues to distribute donated housewares, clothing, furnishings and other necessities to those who have lost homes due to fires. The nonprofit also has a landscaping division that helps to get local fire survivors' yards replanted and a farm foundation for helping farmers and ranchers get their land reclaimed and ready for production.

He is also excited about a new project they are working on for helping communities rebuild, "Tool Libraries." Operating like a lending library, patrons will be able to check out tools and equipment needed for a rebuilding project. There will be a need for donations to stock the libraries.

It takes a lot of volunteers, money and donations to help communities that have been affected by disasters get back to normalcy, and Cascade Relief Team Resources handles the nitty gritty of putting all the resources together. To help or donate, reach them at cascaderelief.org.

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