PATEROS – Every week for the past two years, a select group of volunteers has gathered to discuss the clients and cases that comprise the work that remains to help victims trying to recover from the two largest wildfires in the state’s history, the 2014 Carlton Complex and the 2015 Okanogan Complex. Fittingly, the group is called the Unmet Needs Committee, part of the Okanogan County Long Term Recovery Group (OCLTRG).
They came together again last Friday, April 21, at the Pateros Fire Hall to address business as usual but also to celebrate the service of, and say farewell to, a couple of OCLTRG’s most dedicated volunteers, Debbie and Terry Parsons.
The Parsons arrived on the scene from their Idaho home in May 2015 for what they intended to be an initial six-month stay that extended into two years. During their time with the OCLTRG, Terry applied his multi-skillset of electrical, plumbing and building experience to home rebuilds while Debbie kept the books for the organization.
A cake, gift basket and commemorative photo board greeted the Parsons when they arrived for the 11 a.m. lunch and gathering of well-wishers. Pateros mayor Carlene Anders recited an original poem she wrote in appreciation of all the Parsons’ work. Soon after, the couple departed for home via Yakima where Terry had an appointment for more work on the return trip.
Meanwhile, work goes on for OCLTRG, as Phase 3 approaches with six clients already approved for new homes as soon as funding can be found to get the building underway.
Last Friday, representatives from the Red Cross, Chelan Valley Hope, United Methodist Church, and AmeriCorps met with Disaster Case Managers Rene Howe and Jessica Martin to review home rebuilding applications from the Phase 2 recovery project that includes five residences in Okanogan and two in Chelan. Later that afternoon the group toured it latest rebuilt home in the McLauglin Canyon area north of Okanogan.
Recovery from the record wildfires involves a long process that many who view the progress from outside may not appreciate. One definition for “disaster fatigue” is a diminished enthusiasm on the part of donors to ongoing appeals for charitable aid.
The Carlton Complex wildfire alone burned from July 14 to September 8: 56 days.
“The rule of thumb that people use for planning would be that recovery will then take 10 years,” Stan Norman, Pacific Northwest Disaster Response Coordinator for the United Methodist Church, said
“For every day that you are in disaster you multiply that by 10 for your days of relief,” said Martin. “Then you take that relief number and multiply that by 10 and that gives you your days of recovery on top of relief.”
Big numbers, lots of work, and the work goes on.
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