Some available through partner agencies
Though the distribution was scheduled to take place over most of the day Wednesday and Thursday, all available Instant Air Purifiers at the Winthrop Barn were spoken for by about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 18).
The event started giving out the units and replacement filters at about 11:45 a.m. at the Winthrop Barn. A notification went out at about 2:30 p.m. through Okanogan County’s emergency notification system that said people who were currently in line had been taken into account and could receive a unit, but that all purifiers remaining at the barn had been spoken for.
“Our first gentleman was here at 9:15 a.m.,” said Liz Walker, director of Clean Air Methow, a part of the Methow Valley Citizens Council. Walker helped organize the event along with the Town of Winthrop, Okanogan County Emergency Management and other groups.
She said volunteers asked the man if he knew the event didn’t start until noon. He said, yes, and that he brought a book to pass the time, Walker told the Methow Valley News.
“We opened at 11:45,” she said. “Traffic was lined up back to the rhythm and blues field.”
Traffic was directed to line up in that direction only, and was split into two lines once it got to the parking lot at the barn. There, volunteers took addresses to confirm Methow residency and asked recipients to complete a short survey asking about health and the person’s concerns about air quality.
“Our reason is basically two people with asthma in our house,” said Shelli Anderson, of Winthrop. “The bad days are bad.”
Other people in line expressed concerns about impacts of wildfire smoke to their health, citing respiratory issues and headaches.
“No. 1, we don’t have air conditioning. We need some kind of protection,” said Jim Cohen.
The event was modeled on mass COVID vaccination and testing events with the help of Okanogan County Emergency Management director Maurice Goodall, Walker said.
“It’s been fantastic to have the experience of the COVID testing and drive-throughs,” she said.
Winthrop Mayor Sally Ranzau said later in the day Wednesday that about 50 people volunteered.
North Valley Lumber donated a forklift and operator to help unload the boxes from semi-trailers Tuesday and Ace Hardware donated a pallet jack. Winthrop Public Works crews also helped, along with Okanogan County Fire District 6 firefighters.
“We had way more volunteers than we can even utilize,” Walker said.
The donation of 2,000 air purifiers and a replacement filter each was initiated by an Instant marketing executive with ties to the Northwest and an affinity for the Methow, Winthrop Mayor Sally Ranzau said. Instant Brands is located in Chicago.
The executive contacted Ranzau the previous week to set up the donation, which has about a $600,000 retail value.
“It’s exciting that there’s a corporation out there so generous that they would do this for our community,” Ranzau said last week.
Instant donated its AP300 model, the largest it sells. The device is designed to filter air in spaces up to 388 square feet five times per hour, or an 1,850-square-foot space once an hour. The devices are advertised to clean 99.9% of viruses, dust, smoke pollen and allergens out of the indoor air, according to Instanthome.com.
While many of the 2,000 units were given out Wednesday in Winthrop, a number were diverted to area organizations, and the towns of Pateros and Twisp have also received limited supplies of units to distribute to their residents and clients. Those organizations include Room One, Methow At Home, the Lookout Coalition, Aero Methow Rescue Service, the Methow Valley School District and Family Health Centers.
“The focus has really been on equitable access to this,” Walker said.
Clean Air Methow and Room One have worked together to distribute 100 converted box fan air purifiers throughout the Methow this summer. Walker said Clean Air Methow is working not only to prevent negative health effects from smoke, but also to educate people to reduce the pollutants when they can.
People who weren’t able to get a unit at Wednesday’s event should contact one of the above organizations.
Pateros plans to have its own giveaway event soon. Contact the town for more information.
Clean Air Methow is taking donations starting this week to provide HEPA air purifiers or filters to people in need at www.cleanairmethow.org. Click on the “Clean Air for All” link on that page to donate.