Public can help fire-stricken West

BY HEATHER MOYER | Baltimore, MD | August 7, 2000

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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