A year ago, when wildfires in Western Oregon burned about 1 million acres, thousands of people were evacuated, along with hundreds of head of livestock.
While much of the attention was focused on the needs of people, the animals that ended up in some unfamiliar places also had needs, the main one being feed.
With coordination, support and time provided by members of Timber Unity, an estimated total of 400 tons of hay in two different convoys traveled over the Cascade Range from southcentral Oregon to help with that feed need. Donated rolled barley, chicken feed and dog food also made the trip west.
This year, following the Bootleg Fire in southcentral Oregon’s Klamath and Lake counties, the favor was returned.
About 500 tons of hay from Western Oregon and Central Oregon were donated to livestock owners impacted by the Bootleg Fire.
“There are generous people out there,” Fred Simon, a Malin, Ore., area rancher, said of the donations.
The hay was hauled to his ranch and then distributed. Simon said that originally this year’s hay donations were being gathered to help people and their livestock who were suffering from a lack of pasture and hay due to drought conditions. The fire then increased the need.
“Some people said the hay saved them from having to sell their cattle,” Simon said.
In north central Washington, fires that ignited in July and August also created a feed need for animals. Several hundred tons of hay from Eastern Washington and some from Western Washington were donated and hauled north to help those people and animals who were impacted.
In each case, hay was totally donated or was purchased at discounted prices with funds from Timber Unity’s membership fund or with financial donations.
“Timber Unity is about rural, working Oregonians who care about other people,” said Mike Pihl, president of the organization that was founded in 2019. “When we find out people are in need, everybody reacts in a timely manner. That’s the way it is supposed to work. Timber Unity is a caring group.”
Todd Stoffel, a founding member of Timber Unity and owner of G.T. Stoffel Trucking in Washougal, Wash., said the volunteer help was “amazing.”
“Grazing land burned up, winter hay sheds burned up so there was a huge need,” Stoffel said. “Volunteers moved mountains of hay. Volunteers from Oregon came up to help. FFA kids helped load and unload.
“We met with so much gratitude from people who received loads of hay,” he added. “The thank yous never stopped.”
In addition to the hay donations and deliveries, Timber Unity contributed $5,000 to the Blue River community east of Eugene, Ore., to start a tool library. That town was destroyed by the Holiday Farm Fire.
Timber Unity members also initially put out 30 barrels to help collect donations such as personal hygiene, household products and pet food items. There are now 78 barrels in 40 towns across Oregon, according to Tasha Webb, who is coordinating that program.
“All these different communities have united together to help those in need,” Webb said. “When you unite, so much good can happen.”