As officials and residents across the West pray for rain, those witnessing this prolonged disaster can help,
reported disaster response leaders. Many local response groups, churches, community centers, and even
animal shelters overflowing with evacuated pets are accepting donations of cash, volunteer time, housing,
and -- sometimes -- material goods such as bottled water for firefighters.
The type of donation most needed depends on the area affected and the stage and size of the fire. The
Salvation Army is working in most areas affected by wildfires by supplying the firefighters with food and
water, or by offering relief goods and services those who have lost their homes to a fire. Groups such as
the Baptist Men's Convention are also feeding firefighters and fire survivors alike.
To find out how best to help, response leaders recommend that concerned citizens contact a responding
agency or group near the fire-stricken area or within their own community.
Faye Hannah of the Salvation Army advised those in or close to damaged areas to call their local division
of the Salvation Army to find out what's needed. "And if you're not in the immediate area, then monetary
donations help better," said Hannah.
People trained in firefighting can also help. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported
receiving many calls from concerned citizens. The NIFC said there is an immediate need for trained people
to help fatigued firefighters continue to the battle. To be sent in right away, the NIFC said a citizen must be
a member of a sponsored, organized crew and receive the proper training and physical testing to
participate with wildland firefighting activities.
NIFC also recommends that those trained to help should check with the local land management agency in
their area to find out if they are hiring firefighters or other support personnel, or have a need for
equipment. Many agencies work with local job service offices to recruit for these positions. The USDA
Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Web site also offers a description of the various firefighting
crews, working conditions, and training.
If a person wanting to help is not a trained firefighter, most training by the Forest Service is done in the
early to late spring. NIFC recommends that those interested also contact their local fire forces for training
information as well.
Michael Berry of the American Red Cross in Helena, MT, where the nearby Canyon Ferry fire in Helena
National Forest has scorched almost 42,000 acres, said they also appreciate monetary donations over
anything else. "Monetary donations are always what works out best for us," he said. "That way we can
hand out vouchers for people to choose the merchants they want, and this also helps local businesses get
back on their feet."
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