Western Wildfires

On Sept. 11, Desiree Pierce visits her home destroyed by the Almeda Fire in Talent, Ore. A consultant will review how emergency services notified area residents of the fast-approaching fires.

Wildfires are the West’s worst enemy. Every year, rural towns, homes, farms, ranches and forests are blackened. Urged on by the wind and fed by summer’s dry heat these blazes consume everything in their paths.

2020 has proved to be an exceptional year. In California, Oregon, Washington state and Idaho, wildfires have created a whirlwind of destruction. More than 7 million acres have burned, and the destruction has been massive.

Entire towns have been lost, and others nearly so. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee as a fire bore down on their homes, ranches and farms, putting their lives and property in peril.

Amid the chaos, something extraordinary happened. Friends, neighbors — complete strangers — appeared, as if guardian angels.

Firefighters, law enforcement officers and other emergency workers were joined at the elbow by farmers, ranchers, loggers and a legion of others. Suddenly, the number of volunteers swelled beyond borders, as help arrived from around the region — and the nation.

All offering one thing: help.

It came in many forms. Some people just followed their instinct and joined the battle against the approaching firestorms. Others donated — millions of dollars worth of food, clothing, shelter, trailers. Still others reached out offering help with suddenly urgent tasks.

And some help came in the form of a kind word, a hug, a prayer.

These gestures, large and small, added up. They have put wind under the wings of those who lost their homes, their livelihoods. They have helped families and businesses get back on their feet.

With their actions these heroes spelled out the message that it’s going to be all right. This too shall pass.

Who were these heroes? One thing is for certain. They are too many to count. They appeared not seeking recognition but for a higher purpose.

This publication is our attempt to recognize some of the many people who answered the call and extended a hand when it was most needed. In it, you’ll find a sampling of the heroes who live among us.

— Carl Sampson

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