The Cascade Relief Team began last fall in the wake of the wildfires that blew through parts of the Cascade Range and the Coastal Range.
The team is still helping out survivors of those and other fires.
The team received its 501c3 nonprofit organization status within three weeks of the first fires and went to work.
Those efforts continued this year as fires again threatened communities across the region. In south central Oregon, the 413,717-acre Bootleg Fire destroyed 161 homes, 342 cars and trucks and hundreds of barns, sheds and other structures.
CRT teamed up with other nonprofits to take hay to ranchers who lost some or all of their livestock feed because of the fire. They also donated necessities to the local resource center.
A unique project the team is raising money for is solar power systems designed by a fire survivor to get electricity to the people who remain at their home sites or ranches.
The team got its start last year when founder and president Marc Brooks saw a friend online asking for help evacuating animals, and he decided to take action.
He created a page on Facebook to connect those who needed to evacuate animals with the people who were volunteering their services.
“So it just naturally started, and after the evacuations were over, people needed food, clothing, toiletries, animal feed,” he said of his efforts to coordinate logistics.
He said people would offer all sorts of donations and he would coordinate volunteer drivers to pick them up.
Just one example of the work Brooks and his three-person board of directors — alongside uncounted volunteers — have done over the past year is their work on the Holiday Farm Fire in Blue River, Ore., east of Eugene.
On Feb. 12, community residents and organizers reached out to Cascade Relief Team to help coordinate cleanup efforts, Brooks said.
The Blue River cleanup was in an area where over 400 homes had burned to the ground.
He said that in those situations, people can’t afford to wait for government agencies to act. “That could be a 12- to 18-month process” for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The (Blue River) cleanup was successfully completed in May,” he noted on Facebook. “Cascade Relief Team volunteers and partners cleaned up over 30 lots on the McKenzie River, and homes are starting to come to Blue River and the rest of the (area).”
Another volunteer cleanup effort was organized by a resident who lost his home in the Echo Mountain Fire near Otis, Ore., just east of Lincoln City.
That resident, Corey Rivera, reached out to the Cascade Relief Team to help coordinate cleanup efforts.
Brooks said a staging area was set up on a woodland trail and heavy equipment moved in. A mobile kitchen was set up to feed the dozens of volunteers from around the Northwest.
Cascade Relief Team “deployments” have also included cleanup and relief efforts in the area of the Bootleg Fire in Klamath and Lake counties and last fall’s Alameda Fire in the Medford and Talent areas.
Brooks’ team has also been active in raising money to continue cleanup efforts in those and other areas trying to come back from the devastation.