PATEROS, Okanogan County — After the largest wildfire in Washington’s history destroyed hundreds of homes and burned hundreds of square miles in North Central Washington, donations poured in.
Officials are thankful for the gifts, but they’re now pleading with the public to stop donating goods and asking them to donate money instead. They have enough, perhaps too much stuff.
“I think donations might very well be a second disaster,” Jennifer Dolge, director of donor services and communications for the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, told The Wenatchee World. “There’s just so much stuff, and now they have to figure out what to do with it all.”
Donations for the Carlton complex fire now fill up three warehouses, two gymnasiums, community distribution centers and several semi-trucks that have not been unloaded. Tens of thousands of diapers, truckloads of dog food and pallets of water came in the days after the fire destroyed homes in Pateros and the Methow Valley.
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Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers urged people to donate money, not items.
On Tuesday, Rogers said an army of volunteers and emergency workers worked from sunrise to late into the afternoon, moving donated items from the National Guard Armory in Okanogan to a larger warehouse at the Fairgrounds. From there, they will go to the old Pateros grocery store, which will serve as a long-term solution for providing supplies to fire victims, thanks to the generosity of a donor, Rogers said.
“I’ve got a full detachment of the National Guard, as well as volunteers, public-works employees; they started at 7 a.m. and they’re still going,” he said. “It’s the same story everywhere — we don’t need more goods.”
The donations are getting to fire victims, Rogers said. People have been coming in to the donation centers to pick up clothing, bedding, nonperishable food, toiletries and other necessities. Volunteers, the National Guard and other organizations have also been taking items by the truckload out into communities and neighborhoods affected by fires to make sure people have what they need to get by.
Meanwhile, more than 3,000 firefighting crews continue to fight the 392-square-mile fire. As of Wednesday, the Carlton complex fire was 67 percent contained. Even though temperatures reached the triple digits, fire crews have been able to stop the fire from threatening more homes.