Volunteers willing to tend to human and animal needs alike stepped up Saturday to keep the momentum of mid-valley and statewide wildfire aid efforts alive.
Threats posed by the Beachie Creek and Lionshead wildfires to the north as well as the Holiday Farm Fire to the south continue to displace nearby Oregonians, driving many to the Linn and Benton County fairgrounds.
Numerous farmers from the Klamath Basin hauled hay to Albany for evacuees with livestock.
According to Fred Simon, a Klamath farmer and organizer of the haul, said the amount of hay donated was worth upwards of $35,000. Truckers carrying the bails along with grain feed unloaded on Looney Lane near Linn-Benton Community College’s South Albany campus and helped transfer everything to smaller trucks driven by local volunteers. The volunteers then distributed the materials to local farms and evacuation sites housing livestock brought by evacuees.
“It’s going to be a lifesaver,” said Jeff Warren, who came to pick up hay after evacuating from the Mohawk Valley with chickens and three horses. “That’s one thing that gets forgotten about a lot in a crisis like this, is the animals.”
For Idanha evacuee Richard Pickle, this was his first wildfire evacuation. But, “when it comes to losing everything I have,” he said, “it’s not the first time for that.”
He and his partner Carrie Rhodes found comfort at the Linn County Expo Center and were trying on donated clothes there Saturday afternoon. When it was time to evacuate, Rhodes said, she was still in work clothes and hadn’t been able to find a fresh outfit since she and Pickle began camping out of a Ford Taurus.
“I love all the volunteers (and) what they’re doing,” Rhodes said. “Everyone’s been friendly and almost annoyingly helpful.”
Albany resident Isaac Levi came to the Linn County Expo Center Tuesday night with friends to volunteer in the donation center.
“I knew I wanted to do something,” Levi said. “(There’s) just an incredible outpour of support for the community.”
The wildfires cause smaller, metaphorical fires in evacuees’ lives, he added, so he and the other volunteers at evacuation sites are there to “fight the fires, per se.”
Many individuals, with the help of local organizations, have also worked throughout the week to institute departments throughout the shelters for more efficiency.
At the Benton County Fairgrounds, which is still accepting both evacuees and their livestock overflowing from the Linn County site, there’s far more space and similar resources available.
Ryan Justice, along with his wife, friends, horses and two dogs, left Sweet Home on Wednesday for shelter.
“Where we are, it’s a level one,” he said. “But when you walk to the mailbox, it’s a level three.”
Apprehensive about what would happen if she waited too long to evacuate, Makayla Cannon left Sandy on Friday to get her dozens of animals to safety while her parents stayed behind.
“Everybody’s been concerned,” she said. “They don’t really know what’s happening. It’s stressful (and) worrisome knowing that winds can change at any moment and the direction can change at any time.”
The shelter, though, has been a source of “quite a bit of food” and other things people may have left behind. The Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, the county fairgrounds’ designated donation site, had a near-overwhelming influx of vehicles with trunks full of donatable goods Saturday afternoon since more locals with the day off had extra time on their hands.
Volunteers have helped so much that, Cannon said, she feels as if she owes them.
“I feel like I’ve asked so much of them,” she said. “I did not manage to get dog food before I got out, or bedding, so they helped me with those things. It’s been really nice.”
Julie McLennan, a Benton County 4-H volunteer, is the de facto livestock supervisor at the shelter. She said the community’s togetherness has touched her and “restores your faith in humanity.”
“This is a long-term care situation as far as how long it’s going to take people to recover,” McLennan said. “It’s a tough time for a lot of people, so I’m glad we can help.”