In the face of the devastating fires that have led to the complete destruction of several towns and the mass evacuations of thousands of people, communities all across Western Oregon are pulling together to help each other get through. Some folks are focused on evacuating families and livestock and leading mutual aid drives as new fires start. Many are sharing food, shelter, and supplies with folks fleeing the fires, providing a hot meal and respite at the evacuation sites. Others are starting to return home, opening up their homes and barns, assessing the damage done, and salvaging what’s possible. Still others are trying to protect their neighbors from the impacts of the smoke, bringing the unhoused inside, distributing respirators to farmworkers who continue to rely on the income from working in the fields. In the midst of the fear and the grief brought on by this crisis, rural Oregonians are doing the best we can to care for each other as we have so many times before. What’s happening in your community?
Join us this Wednesday (September 16th) from 6:30-8 PM for a strategy session on Rural Mutual Aid and Wildfire Response to hear from folks on the frontlines, share strategies, and let’s build the infrastructure we need to not just survive, but to thrive. Register here!
This moment, like so many we have seen in 2020, exposes the gaping holes in the social safety net that rural Oregonians should be able to rely on. Underfunded emergency management programs that reside under county sheriff’s departments are struggling to provide timely updates to rural communities about their evacuation status. Fire departments, which are also chronically under-resourced, are working firefighters in grueling shifts to try to contain fires and put out new blazes as they jump up. Many service agencies have risen to the occasion valiantly, making resources available to everyone regardless of whether they can “prove need” or provide a home address, but some have decided to shut their doors, closing off access to their warehouses of food and supplies when it’s most needed, and halting their communities’ ability to access emergency housing support.
Groups across the ROP network have been working diligently to pressure these agencies to expand their reach and create new systems of support. In Cottage Grove, ROP’s Community Building Center on Main Street has been running a food and supply distribution twice a week since the start of the pandemic for those who lost access to reliable income, housing, and healthy food, including many asylum-seeking families. When the smoke hit and evacuees started arriving from neighboring communities, it also quickly transitioned into a hub for distributing respirators to farmworkers and connecting people with food and resources for where to find shelter in Lane County.
While many communities are showing up for each other regardless of religion, race, or political beliefs, some paramilitaries and militias are taking advantage of the environment of chaos and fear to assert themselves. Some are offering help only to “Patriots” and “god-fearing Americans,” while others are setting up check points and even patrolling and threatening people under the guise of “stopping looters.” Many sheriff’s departments are imploring their counties to stop rumor-mongering and to stop bogging down underfunded 911 dispatch to ask whether Antifa is running around setting fires. Here is a good video we’ve been sharing featuring a meteorologist explaining how these fires happened seemingly overnight to help combat the rumors running rampant.
We know that the fires are coming on top of the pandemic when so many are already struggling. The pandemic and the fires are part of a broader system of crises harming our communities–poverty, racism, climate change, and a lack of investment by the state in our rural communities to weather these storms. As we work to get through this time, we’re also building power through strengthening community bonds based on the principle of “everyone in, no one out” and forging networks that will help us fight for what we need to have thriving and healthy communities for the long run.
What are you seeing in your community? How are folks coming together to protect and care for each other? We’d love to hear about it and help share examples so we can draw on each other’s knowledge as we find our way through. Register now to join the statewide Rural Mutual Aid and Wildfire Response Strategy Session and check out the list below of some of the mutual aid resources emerging around the state and let us know what’s missing by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org!
Hannah and the ROP team
Cascade Foothills and Willamette Valley
Hot meals served daily for evacuees at 5:30 pm at the Benton County Fairgrounds. 110 SW 53rd St, Corvallis, OR.
Benton County Wildfire Response is designed to facilitate community preparedness and recovery. Residents can request help or sign up to donate and volunteer. The donation center at the Corvallis Benton County Library (645 NW Monroe St) is also collecting donations for wildfire evacuees from 8am-5pm.
ROP, in partnership with the South Lane School District, runs twice-weekly food, hygiene supply, clothing, pet food, housewares, and book-shares. Join us at 632 E Main St on Tuesday from 11 AM – 1 PM and Thursday from 4-6 PM. To donate or volunteer, contact ROP at 503-543-8417 or email@example.com.
PCUN is collecting and distributing donations of PPE, food, hygiene items and more to workers impacted by COVID-19 and the wildfires. Call Francisca at (503) 851-5660 to make an appointment and pick up a donation box! Donations can be dropped off or mailed directly to PCUN at 300 Young St, Woodburn, OR 97071. You can also donate funds to purchase supplies here.
Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund, operated through Santiam Hospital, is collecting donations of goods and funding for people affected by the fires burning along the Santiam Canyon.
McKenzie River Valley
McKenzie River Trust is working with the United Way of Lane County to collect and distribute donated funds to community organizations in Vida, Blue River, and neighboring communities.
Reach out to the Klamath Tribes Youth Council Facebook page via messenger or call Lead Youth Initiative Coordinator Will Hess at (541) 783-2219 X. 111 for support. Volunteers are available to help distribute donated water, food, personal hygiene products, and other donated items in coordination with Chiloquin Elementary School staff.
Chiloquin Fire and Rescue is accepting non-perishable food, drinks, and personal care products for firefighters. They have already received donations from the food bank and local businesses. Local Chiloquin residents may drop off donations at CF&R in Chiloquin. For more details visit the Chiloquin Fire and Rescue Facebook page.
The evacuation area is set up at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeview (1900 North 4th St). There is fire information there as well.
Donations requested for the Warm Springs Emergency Shelter. Check out Central Oregon Peacekeepers for updates on drop off locations and times.
Columbia County Fairgrounds is open and accepting displaced families and livestock at 58892 Saulser Road, St. Helens, Oregon 97051. 503-397-4231
For those evacuating, the 4H dorms at the Tillamook County Fairgrounds is the evacuation site. They are also able to accept horses, dogs, cats, and other animals. For questions related to housing people and horses call Cami at 503-869-8052. For questions related to housing livestock or domestic animals call Hayden at 503-812-6189.
A compiled document of Southern Oregon fire resources for those who are displaced or want to be of service. Find resources for free shelter and food as well as lists of needed items, donation locations and ways to volunteer.
Rogue Valley Relief Fund: The Rogue Valley Relief Fund will go directly to help people most impacted by these fires in the Rogue Valley. In the short term, this fund will be used to directly meet the needs of those who have been displaced by fires—it will buy tents, meals, gas, and other supplies folks need immediately. In the long term, this fund will support people who have lost their homes in these fires as they rebuild their lives, prioritizing those who have the least access to aid.
Jackson County Mutual Aid Relief Application: This grant application is intended to provide emergency financial relief for residents of Jackson County that were affected by the recent wildfires.
Mutual aid donation drop off and pick up site run by Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity is open at Living Waters Church in Medford from 9am-5 pm. Se habla Español. No questions asked and anyone is welcome.
Almeda Fire FAQ: When is it safe to return home, insurance claims, safe drinking water, and more! It also includes a list of needed donation items. Items can be taken to the distribution center at Wagner Plaza.
Orchard Hill teachers from Phoenix/Talent school district and Rogue Action Center volunteers have set up at Home Depot (3345 N Phoenix Road, Phoenix, OR) with lots of supplies. Water, pet food, TP, diapers, food. Please feel free to drop supplies (no clothes please) especially sleeping gear and padding. Or come get stuff if you need it!
Rogue Credit Union has established a donation fund, through the Rogue Credit Union Foundation, to help the affected communities. Donate online or in-branch, or over the phone.
Josephine County Fairgrounds – 541-476-3215. The fairgrounds are the hub for local relief and are accepting donations that will be distributed to shelters in need. They can use packaged food items that are easy to distribute and will not spoil, fruit and nuts, granola bars, etc. They also need water, diapers, wipes, formula, and baby food.
Parkway Christian Center – 541-479-2639 – 229 NE Beacon Dr., Grants Pass. PCC is specifically asking for donations of folding chairs, cots, pillows and pillowcases. They can also use sleeping bags, blankets, and towels. These items can be new, or gently used and clean. Soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, and toothpaste are also appreciated.
St. Ann’s Catholic Church – 1131 NE 10th St., Grants Pass. They have specifically requested bottled water, prepackaged snacks, bananas, apples, oranges, cleaning wipes.
All donations can be delivered directly to the sites
Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland is offering free emergency evacuation shelter in Wallowa, Oregon. Lots of space for teepees, RVs, and tent camping with water & electric available. Limited indoor shelter for elders & people unable to camp. Corrals and pasture for livestock. Large industrial kitchen, toilets, and hot showers available! Need help with travel costs to Wallowa? We might be able to help! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-886-3101, www.wallowanezperce.org
Location: 70956 Whiskey Creek Rd, Wallowa, OR 97885.
Is your community missing from this list? Email email@example.com to tell us what you are up to and we will update this!