United Methodists respond with care to fire survivors in eastern Washington

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A man loads a box of UMCOR hygiene kits into a truck.
A volunteer loads UMCOR hygiene kits into a truck to take to one of the Red Cross shelters set up in Spokane this weekend after wildfires ravaged the area.

In the days after fires ripped through eastern Washington and destroyed hundreds of structures, United Methodists have mobilized to offer their support.

With a $10,000 United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Solidarity grant and hygiene kits quickly deployed from the closed Trinity UMC in Wenatchee, Wash., Pacific Northwest Conference Disaster Response Co-Coordinator Kathy Bryson said supplies of all kinds will hopefully be in the hands of survivors soon.

“This was all happening so fast,” she said. “There are survivors at all levels.”

Inland and Seven Rivers District Superintendent Rev. Daniel Miranda and Assistant for Connectional Ministries Rev. Sheila Miranda, helped to get a volunteer to transport hygiene kits from Wenatchee to one of two Red Cross shelters in Spokane. Additionally, the Mirandas distributed 17 fan filter kits to Deer Park UMC north of Spokane.

It took more than five hours to get the kits to the Red Cross shelters in Spokane over the weekend, Bryson said, because Interstate 90 was closed at one point.

The UMCOR solidarity grant will be used to purchase relief supplies, volunteer efforts, and community unmet needs.

The response stems from two fires that blew up quickly on August 18. The Grays Road Fire near Medical Lake (just west of Spokane) was primarily fueled by timber and began crowning through trees. It wiped out numerous homes and structures.

The Oregon Friger Fire, north of Spokane, was being fueled by timber and high winds, with many structures lost as well.

Bryson, who is also Vice-Chair of the Washington Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, has been on at least two to three situational awareness phone calls a day to coordinate relief efforts.  She, along with local UMC volunteers, will be staffing a Disaster Assistance Center supporting survivors with UMCOR relief supplies.

Churches can assist by giving funds to the PNW Disaster Response Fund — 100 percent of all giving goes directly to disaster response.

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A mom, a writer, a wannabe runner, Kristen Caldwell calls Vancouver, Wash., home and loves getting to tell stories of the people and places that make up the Greater Northwest Area.

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