Nearly 100 people turned out for the Out of the Ashes benefit event Saturday night for victims of the Taylor Bridge Fire.
Event organizer Tammy Eliel said she hoped for a larger showing, but it said it was worth the effort however many people came out. The event, originally scheduled in September, was moved because of the Table Mountain Fire.
The event at Red Hawk on the River in Thorp honored first responders and raised money for fire relief through a dinner, auction and entertainment. The Taylor Bridge Fire, which started Aug. 13, destroyed 61 homes and charred 23,500 acres between Cle Elum and Ellensburg.
“We made it happen regardless of moving the date,” Eliel said. “We knew it was going to be risky because people would go on with their lives now that the fire is out.”
Eliel said it’s too early to tell if the event covered its costs, but added it’s worth the effort to keep the victims on people’s minds and keep mobilizing money and help available to work for those touched by the August fires.
“We can move mountains,” she said. “That’s all it takes: people coming together.”
State Rep. Bill Hinkle of Cle Elum kicked off the event, and recalled his own 17 years as a structure firefighter and paramedic as he praised the men and women who responded to the wildfire.
“For guys who work in urban fire departments, they have no idea what you guys go through out in the wildland,” he said.
Structure firefighters, he said, have bigger hoses, bigger engines, breathing apparatuses and a chance to step out of the smoke every now and then to refill their oxygen tank.
“It’s a whole different ballgame, and it’s a scary world,” he said.
Joy Fields, a volunteer with Kittitas County Fire and Rescue District 1, was among the several firefighters and first responders present.
Fields helped evacuate people and livestock, and eventually had 27 horses and a pig staying at her place.
“We were grabbing whatever we would find on the roadway,” she said.
Fields said she thought the event was a nice “thank you,” but that’s not what kept her volunteering for more than 30 years.
“I never did it for recognition. I did it for my neighbor,” she said. “To me, it’s all in helping your neighbor.”
Volunteer firefighter Gabriel Reyes, who helped with structure protection along Ellensburg Ranches Road, agreed. Reyes said, in the end, the job is all about helping out fellow community members.
“It sounds cliché or corny, but that’s how we feel about it,” he said.
Eliel said people can find information about how to help or how to receive help on the benefit’s website at taylorbridgebenefit.org.