Wildfire Relief: Grant Pass, OR
On Sept. 8, 2020, a grass fire started at the northern end of the town of Ashland, in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley. Record-high winds fanned the blaze into the deadly Alameda Fire, which burned for about ten miles along the Bear Creek Greenway, from Ashland, northward through Talent and Phoenix, to the county seat of Medford. At last count 2,490 residential structures and 164 businesses were completely destroyed in these four cities, with most of the destruction in Talent and Phoenix. Tragically, three people died in the disaster.
The SSSIO-USA Pacific Northwest Region sprang into action to provide relief those whose lives were devastated by the wildfires. The service coordinator of the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Grants Pass contacted the wildfires relief centers in the four cities to understand the immediate needs of the impacted communities. A list of essential supplies was compiled and communicated to the SSSIO members across the region, who purchased the items and shipped them to the Grants Pass Sai Center. The relief supplies included sleeping bags, tents, pots and pans, flashlights, extension cords, personal hygiene kits, underwear, first aid kits, disposable eating utensils and paper towels.
Volunteers from the Grants Pass Sai Center assisted with several tasks, including opening and sorting through the boxes of donated items, and packing them into smaller quantities for distribution. The bags were then labeled and delivered to the four relief centers in Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford. The harder-hit communities of Talent and Phoenix received the bulk of the donations.
Many who lost their homes in the wildfires were the elderly and those living in mobile homes in trailer parks. Such a devastating loss for those already living in such impoverished conditions was indeed heartbreaking. So many who came to the relief centers were starting over from scratch. They were grateful for the supplies, having lost almost everything in the fire.
One person remarked, with a wistful look, "I used to have one of these", as he expressed his thanks for the item. An elderly couple in their late 70's or 80's stood by their old pickup truck with a few of their belongings in the back that they managed to salvage before they had to evacuate. The wife seemed to be in a daze from not only losing all their possessions but also the life they had known.
In the face of such tragedy, the tremendous outpouring of support from the local community was inspiring and stood out as a beacon of hope for many of these victims. Indeed, so overwhelming was the amount of used clothing items that poured in, that they had to stop accepting donations after a few days. Many in the community also opened up their homes, so that there were very few people who needed to stay at the temporary shelter locations.