On September 19th ROWW received and distributed over $150,000 worth of supplies as part of our Phase 1 Response to the West Coast wildfires thanks to an amazing group of Oregonian volunteers, our supporters, our partners at Direct Relief and Lowe’s, and volunteer pilots that organized a 20 plane caravan to transport the nearly 5000 pounds of medical supplies from the Direct Relief warehouse in Santa Barbara.
ROWW volunteers met the incoming flights from Direct Relief at the Eugene airport and organized distribution to multiple hubs throughout Oregon over the next few days. Our team delivered supplies to the Evacuee Distribution Center at the Masonic Lodge in Eugene, Glide Revitalization nonprofit in Glide, the Cal-Ore Life-Flight air ambulance company in Gold Beach, Lane County Public Health Department, and the Living Waters Church in Medford. Inventory included 100,000 KN95 respirators, generators, solar chargers, cots, tarps, gas cans and extension cords, hygiene products, tents, and more.
ROWW’s Oregon response will be broken up into 3 phases over the coming months. As active and threatening fires die down, we will begin providing site-cleaning/clearing supplies and machinery to aid victims with recovery and rebuilding efforts. Our Phase 1 emergency supply delivery and distribution deployment was truly a group of amazing people coming together from all walks of life to help others. If you’d like to get involved with or contribute to our Wildfire response in Oregon please click the blue button below!
Since our initial distribution mission with Direct Relief in September, ROWW identified and made contact with 3 heavily affected communities in the towns of Otis, Blue River, and Medford, Oregon. On the week of November 8th our team conducted recon missions to each location to survey and take notes on how to most effectively help with recovery efforts. We compiled a needs list with community leaders and made stops at Lowe’s to provide each leader with donated supplies to disperse in their area.
Over the weekend ROWW set back out to Otis, Oregon to continue Phase 2 of our relief work. We spent 3 days with a team of skilled volunteers that included firefighters, arborists, a logging crew, and an excavation crew. Our volunteers brought some serious equipment: a D7 dozer, a skid steer, a backhoe, and an acetylene torch. We contributed 480+ hrs helping residents remove debris from their properties. ROWW saved homeowners up to $30k per lot cleared, having cleared over 10 lots total. ROWW fell over 30 dangerous or dead trees, and split the limbs for firewood donations. Our crew then cut large metal pieces from the previous homes/structures with hot saws and acetylene torches. The metal scrap was loaded into recycle bins with the help of heavy machinery (mini-x, skid steer) and hauled off with a dump truck. The remaining ash was bagged up with shovels and placed into proper ash bins to be hauled off as well. After the lots were cleared of all trees, debris & ash, the dozer conducted a lot-scrape with the blade rendering the property ready for utilities to be installed. Doing all this allows families to move back onto their properties in an RV, trailer, tent, etc and begin rebuilding. There are state programs and grants in place to help homeowners affected by disasters but it often only covers a fraction of the cost it takes to make serious improvements. In addition to the site clearing work, we also revisited a community center and donated supplies from our friends at Lowe’s.
On February 19th Team ROWW traveled to Blue River, Oregon to complete Phase 2 of our Wildfire Response: Homesite/Lot Clearing. Over the 3 day deployment we had multiple worksites operating at once making the progress efficient and substantial. Our volunteer teams consisted of community members, experienced forestry firefighters and city firefighters, loggers, heavy machinery operators, construction workers, local Oregonians, the OSU Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and many others that got word of the deployment and signed up each morning.
After each morning’s safety briefing we distributed the day’s work orders and our teams set off. Each property’s ash was tested for asbestos and cleared prior. Around the neighborhood we had roughly 40-50 volunteers working at any given moment. Some came for a day and most stayed the entire weekend. It was great seeing familiar faces each morning.
Since responding to the fires back in September, this ongoing deployment has been about ROWW helping disadvantaged and real people affected by the fires. Homeowners were there with us, walking us through their properties, telling the stories of what it was like to evacuate and what it is like now coming back. One major success story was being able to hand deliver a woman’s wedding ring and high school class ring after she gave us a general area they could be !
While our tree teams fell dangerous or dead trees a couple properties in advance, our site clearing volunteers removed all metal from within and around the foundation. This included the roof, doors, appliances, bed springs, piping, etc. They also created a “Keep Pile” for items of value not-so-damaged by the flames. Once a metal pile was finished our excavator and skid steer came in and transported it to nearby bins to be hauled off. This continued property after property after property. Some did not require as much work so we divided and conquered.
Our original goal going into the weekend was to complete 10 jobs. By the end of Sunday we cleared 20 lots, this included 1 large general store that sat on the same site as a residence. Some homeowners came by to see the work being done, while others cheered us on by phone from where they relocated to.
We cannot thank the incredibly strong and resilient community leaders for their hard work in getting us situated, resident approvals, media referrals, and working hand in hand to help us tackle this deployment. Thank you to Lowe’s Home Improvement for providing all the tools and equipment we used and in turn donated to the Blue River Tool Shed where residents can check out tools to use while rebuilding themselves. Marc with the Cascade Relief Team managed logistics and toxic/harmful mineral approvals that allowed us to step foot in a property to begin with. ROWW completed over 1,600 hours from over 100 dedicated volunteers over the weekend. Photo credit: Shimizu Photography