UW Combined Fund Drive

August 30, 2023

Eastern Washington wildfires: Resources and support

Two destructive wildfires near Spokane have destroyed hundreds of structures, burned tens of thousands of acres and claimed at least two lives.

The Gray Fire sparked August 18 and quickly spread east and southeast through the town of Medical Lake and across I-90. The fire prompted a widespread evacuation of homes in Medical Lake and surrounding areas.

The fire, which has claimed one life and whose cause is under investigation, is about 85% contained.

The Oregon Road Fire also sparked on August 18 near the town of Elk, prompting level 3 evacuations with firefighters from across the state and region brought in to help. Most evacuees have been allowed to return home.

The Oregon Road fire is about 80% contained and has claimed one life, with the cause also under investigation. Both fires have consumed more that 10,000 acres and some 700 structures are estimated to be destroyed or heavily damaged.

Fire season 2023: Prevention tips and resources (UWCFD)

How you can help

Donate blood: The American Red Cross reports that blood donations have been worryingly low for several months. There is an urgent call for blood donations to help victims of these fires and other natural disasters.

Support recovery efforts: Consider making a one-time or ongoing donation through payroll deduction to a UWCFD nonprofit actively working in the communities affected by the fires:

The American Red Cross of Greater Inland Northwest (charity code 0315546) provides many relief services in the aftermath of disasters, including sheltering and feeding evacuees in shelters, providing mental health support and counseling for families impacted with tips on self-care and how to cope. When it is safe to do so, Red Cross teams will help with damage assessment and begin distributing relief supplies.

American Red Cross Disaster Relief Services (charity code 1468727): From small house fires to multi-state natural disasters, the American Red Cross goes wherever we’re needed, so people can have clean water, safe shelter and hot meals when they need them most.

Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (charity code 1480139) is assisting with evacuating animals, both domestic pets and livestock, to the Spokane Fair and Expo Center and providing medical care and food supplies.

The Salvation Army of Spokane (charity code 0316295) is providing food and emotional and spiritual care, and other critical services, to evacuees.

Resources for learning and emotional support

WA EAP resources

UW’s employee assistance program, WA EAP (available 24/7) has provided the following suggestions for caring for yourself and loved ones in the aftermath of the fires:

  • Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions. It is common to experience a wide range of emotions following a disaster. Avoid self-talk about what you “should” be feeling.
  • Reach out to family, friends, and community. Talk with trusted people in your life about how you are doing. Seek support from your community and faith-based resources, if applicable.
  • Set boundaries around when and how often you consume media. Constant access to news and social media means that we can easily become overloaded by bad news. You might make a conscious choice not to watch the news right before bedtime.
  • Identify things within your scope of influence. It is easy to feel helpless in overwhelming situations, so it can be useful to focus on what you can do. This could include actions like donating to a credible relief organization, checking in on someone you feel concerned about or volunteering with a relevant cause or group.
  • Take care of your physical health. Remember to move yet be conscious of the air quality that surrounds you. Trauma tends to “get stuck” in our bodies and choosing to move can help shift hard feelings. Try any movement that works for your body. Eat healthy foods and get adequate sleep and rest when you can.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Know that you are not alone in experiencing strong reactions to these events. Don’t despair if you are having a hard time concentrating at work or keeping your cool with your partner or kids. What’s one thing you can do to be kind to yourself today?
  • Seek out and use supportive resources. Ask for support and help from the people, places and programs that are helpful to you.

If you or someone you care for is in crisis, contact: 

Additional ways to support through the UWCFD

Consider setting up monthly payroll deduction or making a one-time gift to any of the following UWCFD member organizations working to mitigate the effect of wildfires in our region: 

Washington State Fire Fighter’s Association (charity code 0518389): The Washington State Fire Fighters’ Association provides information education benefits and representation to the volunteer fire service of the State of Washington in order to enhance their capabilities and professionalism.

Washington State Council of Firefighters Burn Foundation (charity code 0457346): Provide funding for burn research and public burn education fire prevention programs and summer camp for children with burn injuries through a system of grants.

The Soup Ladies (charity code 1481469): Our mission is to provide fresh cooked meals expeditiously to support first responders such as police and fire departments, search and rescue teams and military personnel in times of emergencies and disasters.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (charity code 1482288) honors fallen fire heroes and supports their families and colleagues; and works to reduce preventable firefighter death and injury.

Contributed by Nicole Reeve-Parker