Volunteer joins Taylor Bridge Fire relief effort
August 21, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Towing a horse trailer packed with supplies, Kim Arellano steered her Ford F-350 across the Cascades and close to the Taylor Bridge Fire.
The wildfire raging near Cle Elum and Ellensburg caused hundreds of firefighters to descend on neighboring Kittitas County. The disaster also led Arellano and countless volunteers throughout Washington and the Pacific Northwest to mobilize and support the relief effort.
Arellano is modest about hauling supplies from Issaquah and the Snoqualmie Valley to the fire-stricken area.
“My part was so small, but it was so rewarding,” she said. “I hope that others had an opportunity to have similar experiences. I’m glad my kids were there to witness what it feels like to help out other people.”
Arellano’s 7-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter accompanied her to Kittitas County last week, as more than 900 firefighters battled the blaze. The wildfire scorched more than 23,000 acres and destroyed about 50 homes in the week leading to Aug. 20.
How to help
Due to a tremendous outpouring of donations of clothing, food and more, Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce leaders said the best way to help residents impacted by the Taylor Bridge Fire is through monetary donations. Learn more about how to make monetary donations to Kittitas County relief organizations at the chamber’s fire emergency resources website, www.kittitascountychamber.com/ Chamber-Profile/fire-emergency-resources.html.
“You can see the fire pretty clearly, at least the smoke, from I-90,” Arellano said Aug. 17. “It starts getting hazy as soon as you hit Easton, all the way down into Ellensburg.”
The donations included clothing, food and pallets of cucumber-and-green-tea-scented baby wipes.
Arellano attended Central Washington University in Ellensburg, so the fire-stricken area ranked as familiar territory.
“I knew exactly where they were happening, and I’d spent quite a bit of time up in those mountains,” she said. “It kind of hit close to home for me.”
Arellano initially asked if horse or livestock owners in the fire-impacted area needed help evacuating animals, but relief organizers urgently needed supplies.
“I can’t even imagine having to make that gut-wrenching decision of, you have to leave everything behind — including your animals,” Arellano said.
So, she joined forces with the Issaquah and Snoqualmie Valley chambers of commerce to coordinate the delivery of supplies to fire-stricken residents in Kittitas County.
Arellano, a Snoqualmie resident and executive director at the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Foundation, sprung into action as the battle raged against the wildfire.
Organizers set up a drop-off site at the Hilton Garden Inn in Issaquah to collect donations. Arellano and other local volunteers used Facebook to organize donations drop-offs and pick-ups.
“It’s people helping people,” she said.
Arellano collected donations from the Issaquah hotel and sites in the Snoqualmie Valley, and then set off on the 90-mile trip east to Ellensburg to meet Kittitas Chamber of Commerce leaders.
“I met up with the Kittitas chamber out there and said, ‘Hi, I’m with the Issaquah-Snoqualmie chambers. We’ve got some stuff for you,’ and dropped that off,” she said.
The effort reminded Arellano about the need for communities to pull together in times of tragedy.
“It had nothing to do with political background or differences between the eastern side of the mountains and the western side — we know we’re just one big, giant community,” she said.