Kittitas Wildfire Prompts Overwhelming Donations

Aug 20, 2012

Dramatic images of destruction from a central Washington wildfire this week haave prompted an overwhelming flood of donations to fire victims. So much that the state of Washington is urging well meaning donors to stop giving food and clothing and donate money instead. In Cle Elum, correspondent Courtney Flatt checked out the brimming donation centers.

Food bank volunteer Frank Schuchman warned me he might be interrupted by a phone call or two. He was right. He smiles as he puts down the phone.

Schuchman: “Four horse trailers coming from Gold Bar right now.”

So many supplies have come to Cle Elum, Washington, that many donations centers are turning people away. There is simply not enough space to hold it all.

Schuchman says the nonprofit HopeSource is an exception. Residents have donated three garaged-sized storage units to the food bank. And schools are opening up their kitchens to house perishable supplies.

He stands in a temporary storage area, surrounded by canned goods and bread piled up to his shoulders. Schuchman has even seen regular food bank customers bring back their weekly supplies so they can go to fire victims.

Schuchman: “This won’t last very long. Tens of thousands of pounds will be gone in days. There’s a huge need. For three meals a day for a family of four to six in a household, this does not go very far.”

But even Schuchman says the best thing to do – at this point – is to donate money or wait a week or two to send food.

Jennifer Epps towed a horse trailer filled with supplies from Winthrop, Washington. Epps says she used social media to solicit donations to bring up.

Kittitas County officials are creating a special team to sort through donations that are coming in from around the state. They, as well as the State of Washington, say the best way for well-meaning people to help is to send a donation, such as to the Red Cross of Kittitas County.

The State Emergency Management Division says the fire crews are well supplied and don’t need donated goods.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio