‘Whatever it takes to keep it wet down’
SYRINGA – Last Friday afternoon, as the hills just west of Syringa on U.S. Highway 12 were smoking and periodically bursting with flare-ups as part of the Motorway Complex, the Schwartz family was out protecting access to their ranch just across the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River.
“We’re using sprinklers, spray nozzles, whatever it takes to keep it wet down,” said Robert Schwartz, talking about the approximately 450-foot-long wooden suspension bridge, built in 1968, the sole access into the family’s nearly 100-acre Paradise Ranch.
His brothers, Danny and Dixie Schwartz of Grangeville, and Johney and Elisa Schwartz of Lewiston, were out on hose duty for hours, soaking the structure well into the evening, already having started the day early clearing several truckloads of pine needles and woody debris off the property to head off possible spot fires from the Woodrat Fire adjacent to Syringa.
No structures were reported lost in the area, and despite the state 3 evacuation in play for Syringa and surrounding area, activity was minimal as many opted to stay as two helicopters worked the fire and hotspots in the forested hills and draws around and between Swan and Smith creeks.
Fire at Syringa
“We’ve been keeping our humor up,” Schwartz said, as Danny and Elisa took a moment away from their duties to fight over a hose to spray each other. “We’re Christians; we don’t believe in luck, we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s where we’re at as a family. We’re not only praying for ourselves but for our entire region.”
‘We don’t want people to stay in harm’s way’
KOOSKIA – A week following the Lawyer 2 Fire blowup at Kamiah, activity at the American Red Cross relief center at Clearwater Valley Elementary School had slackened. Last Friday, Aug. 21, the center had four people using the facility for shelter, and it was averaging between 150 to 200 meals served a day – down from 300 at the height of demand — to area residents impacted by wildfires.
Volunteers noted the decrease partially due to residents being able return to homes, as well as the opening of a second shelter service in Weippe. People have come and gone through the facility, not largely using it for overnight shelter, according to ARC volunteer Nate Montgomery, in comparison to usage he’s seen in larger areas.
“One of the amazing things about this area is family takes care of family, friends take care of friends,” Montgomery said. “So here we don’t see the larger populations as we do in urban areas or the South.”
Besides people, family pets have been accommodated with donation of around 30 dog crates. Last Friday, three were crated in a sheltered courtyard area at CVES where the owner was watching over them until covering the crates with blankets for the night. Having the animal crates is a good option to help encourage residents to utilize the facility.
“We don’t want to discourage anyone from coming into the shelter,” Montgomery said. We want to be accommodating. We don’t want people to stay in harm’s way.”
Kooskia EMT Denise Bacon volunteered at the shelter, “since day one,” she said, helping organize the initial ARC relief response for the Kamiah fires, working to set up shelter, manage the sudden influx of donations, “as well as provide three squares a day with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief [SBDR].”
Last Friday, eight SBDR volunteers – along with a 2nd lieutenant from Mt. Home Air Force Base — were at Kooskia’s ARC relief center, serving meals.
“There’s been such an outpouring of donations,” said SBDR volunteer Clara Hohmann, from Ogden, Utah, which they have been sharing with the Life Center in Kamiah, which is the central point for providing clothing, nonperishable food and other basic needs to those affected by the fires. “And they, in turn, have let us get whatever we food need, so it has worked out beautifully.”
She noted it has been a blessing to serve people in need, as well as a blessing to be able to answer the call of the Lord to serve.
“And the people are wonderful,” Hohmann said, “even in the midst of their crisis.”
Properly dispose waste due to wildfires
As area residents clean up following recent wildfires, officials in Idaho, Lewis and Clearwater counties are asking that hazardous materials not be buried on properties but instead be transported to a solid waste facility for proper disposal.
Items of concern include paint and solvents, gas cans, used oil containers, pesticides/herbicides, refrigerators with Freon, batteries, tires, burned vehicles, clothing and food.
Vehicles, appliances and metals can be taken to Jackson’s Salvage. For questions, contact Robert Simmons with Simmons Sanitation in Kamiah, 935-2617.
ARC multi-agency resource
Survivors of the Clearwater Complex fire can utilize the American Red Cross multi-agency resource center in Kamiah, Aug. 25-27, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., American Legion Hall at 618 Main Street.
Caseworkers will be available to help create recovery plans, locate assistance for cleanup and also groceries, rent, medicine and other items or services.
In some instances, individuals and families applying for assistance will need to show identification showing address and proof of residence.