Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

May 8, 2014

Charities helping residents after wildfire

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

GUTHRIE — Local charities are on the scene to help Logan County residents sift through the ashes after wildfires swept through the rural area near Guthrie.

At Community Church, 512 E. Seward Road, American Red Cross volunteers have been providing food, shelter, clothing and emotional support. The church served as a temporary Red Cross shelter and has hosted several agencies supplying support to persons affected by the fire. Now the focus is shifting toward recovery. 

From noon to 6 p.m. today and Friday, Community Church will become a resource center where the Red Cross and partner agencies, such as the Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, address fire victims’ needs.

“We sit down and chat with them and see whether or not their homes were destroyed, damaged or impacted, and we ask them what they need,” said Ken Garcia, Red Cross regional director of communications.

Initially, Red Cross and partner agencies provided water and food to fire fighters and supported those who were evacuated or lost homes with immediate needs.

Now, help is transitioning to include financial assistance and cleanup assistance. Bulk distribution teams are handing out rakes, gloves, masks and shifter boxes. 

Wes Johnson, incident commander for the Baptists General Convention’s disaster response team, said volunteers are standing by the phones waiting for calls to help with cleanup. Anyone with a request can call 443-7583, 388-6912 or 415-5261.

Teams from the Red Cross and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief are out assessing fire damage.

Johnson said while the Baptist Rapid Response Teams will work with any homeowner, they meet in the field to see what help is needed, much of their response is based on calls for assistance. When a call comes in, team members assess the damage to see how they can help. 

“Whatever the site dictates,” Johnson said. “The calls are very slow at the moment. If the work is there, we want to help.”

Teams assist with cutting back burned trees near a fire-damaged home, for example, or can work with a homeowner to do debris cleanup and recovery of property.

Ash boxes are a valuable tool to sift through the fire looking for jewelry and other items, Garcia said.

Chaplains also meet with people affected by the fire and offer spiritual and emotional support and prayer. 

“We offer help, healing and hope,” Johnson said.

The Baptists have served 665 meals since arriving on the scene Monday morning and have completed two work orders based on requests. So far, there have been 18 job requests and 12 jobs assessed, Johnson said.

Garcia said the First Assembly of God, 1900 S. Division, has passed out toiletries and clothing to those in need. The Red Cross has persons trained to offer mental heath support and a nurse who can help with replacing lost medications. 

“We want to make sure the basic human needs are being met,” Garcia said. “We also have spiritual care.”