Across Oregon we look out our windows or tune into the news, and we watch our state burn. Fires threaten homes where we grew up and farmland we tilled for generations. Fires rip across waterfalls so powerful they drench us from a distance and through the very forests that brand us as Oregonians.
Across Oregon people are asking, “How can I help?”
The Oregon Office of Emergency Management recommends people contribute cash donations to reputable disaster agencies, allowing staff to purchase exactly what is needed, when it’s needed. The American Red Cross is leading early relief efforts. For a complete list of area nonprofits that work in disaster relief, visit Oregon Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster.
For those who strongly prefer to donate items, listen for public service announcements that list needed items, and understand that it may take a few days to determine what items are needed and to set up an official collection center. Donate only things requested by officials, and take them only to designated collection centers. Donations of inessential items may go to waste; or worse, they may obstruct relief efforts. If a person has already collected goods that are not requested in relief efforts, consider donating them to a local charity.
As we watch our coworkers and friends evacuate their homes, and crews battle the blazes, officials ask us to remember: volunteer help will be needed long after the fires have been put out. In these early days, do not go to the scene of a disaster. The arrival of unexpected volunteers interfere with emergency response efforts. Instead, consider offering to volunteer through one of the relief agencies working in Oregon, and wait until they can organize an extended volunteer response.
Friends of the Columbia River Gorge is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the Gorge. The group has a website page listing ways that the community can support efforts to help the area recover from the fire.