A thank you banner is displayed outside of Port Orchard UMC after a tornado there in 2018.

Wildfires – current and past ones – are on the minds of disaster response coordinators across the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church this month as they make a few requests from local churches.

Volunteers needed for Okanogan re-build

Cheryl Reagan, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Conference, said the 2020 Okanogan Fire Long Term Recovery Group is ready to start accepting UMVIM volunteer teams in the fall of 2021 through 2022 to help with the rebuilding process.

The Okanogan area fires destroyed a tremendous amount of residences and other structures and many are still fighting homelessness or inadequate housing.

Most team members will need to update their Safe Gatherings or Safe Sanctuaries background checks. All skill levels are needed and will be used. To learn more about putting together an UMVIM re-building team, contact Reagan at PNWUMVIM@gmail.com.

Time to prepare hygiene kits

In the Oregon-Idaho Conference, UMVIM leaders are encouraging local churches to participate in “Done in a Day” mission projects. Recently, Oak Grove United Methodist Church put together hygiene kits which will be distributed to wildfire survivors, if needed, over the course of this summer.

Watch this video to learn how Oak Grove UMC worked together to 300 hygiene kits for wildfire evacuees and others fleeing from disaster. Last summer Oak Grove UMC provided emergency shelter to those fleeing fires and the homeless who needed shelter from the thick, smokey air.

Contact Oregon-Idaho UMVIM coordinator Louise Kienzle at umvim@umoi.org to learn more about “Done in a Day” mission projects your church can engage in to help prepare for a potentially dangerous fire season.

Support wildland firefighters – visibly

Many churches across the Greater Northwest Area have members or members with family members who are working as wildland firefighters. Many churches may be located in areas where wildland firefighters are camped out as they respond to the blazes.

As tempting as it may be to provide food for the crews working in your area, PNW Disaster Response Co-Coordinator Kathy Bryson said the crews are typically following strict diet and sanitary guidelines that churches simply cannot meet by making donations.

The best thing to do is for churches to display signs of gratitude or welcome to the firefighters in their community, in addition to taking preventive measures to protect their church property and following all road closure guidance, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The following was written by crews managing the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon about posting thank you notes on social media or signs in your yards: “This is a great morale booster for firefighters after a long shift and many of our crews are working throughout the night when, under these extremely hot and dry conditions, it is actually safer.”

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