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An emergency coalition is being proposed to support local firefighters and victims when situations arise that extra help is needed. File photo by Ann McCreary

By Laurelle Walsh

An effort to coordinate a network of volunteers into the Coalition of Emergency Response, a group that would support local firefighters on long fire calls such as the trio of house fires in February as well as providing support to the victims of the same emergencies, has been launched recently.

Glenn Schmekel outlined the proposal at a recent Methow Valley Roundtable meeting in Twisp.

Local Red Cross volunteer Nancy Dammann had provided food, water and supplies to volunteer firefighters “for years,” Schmekel said. “After she passed away we discovered it took six people to replace her,” he told the roundtable gathering.

The proposed coalition would spring into action via a call chain initiated by Gene Westlund at the Winthrop Inn, Schmekel said. “The members would be told to be ready to help in whatever way you can,” he said.

As envisioned, Sheila Brandenburg would head up support for firefighters, the Twisp Valley Grange would supply victims with “fire boxes” containing basic necessities, the Methow Valley Senior Center would supply clothing and household supplies, The Cove would supply food to victims, and the Winthrop Inn would provide emergency housing, Schmekel said.

Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow cautioned that local and regional emergency plans are already in place, and a plan like this might produce a “conflict of command” with entities such as the Red Cross. “You don’t want to be stepping on somebody’s toes here,” Budrow said.

Grange member Wendy Braden said that the Red Cross would like to have a disaster action team in the valley and she and other coalition members are already signed up to go through Red Cross training.

The Wenatchee office of the Red Cross has received nine online volunteer applications from the Twisp and Winthrop areas since talk of the coalition began, said Disaster Program Manager Amanda Appel in a phone interview. Interested volunteers should fill out the Adult Volunteer Application at www.redcross.org/wa/spokane/volunteer; they will then be contacted by the Wenatchee office about training dates, Appel said.

“As long as the Red Cross is at the table during the formation of the Coalition of Emergency Response, I don’t anticipate any problems with other entities,” Appel said.

For more information on the Coalition of Emergency Response, contact The Cove at 997-0227 or Gene Westlund at 996-2217.