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Wildfire Victims Seek Help From Their Tribal Community

Firefighters mop up remaining fire and heat near residences threatened by the Cayuse Mountain Fire.

  The Cayuse Mountain Fire has been the second largest in Washington state this summer. The blaze consumed 14 homes and displaced up to 50 people on the Spokane Indian Reservation. But the community is trying to get back to normal life.

Word of the fire and its damage spread almost as fast as the flames. The day after it started, the community had already set up a donation center for victims in a warehouse next door to the high school

Tammy Byers came from Muckleshoot alongside nieces, nephews and her son.

“We grew up here, and this is my family, even though I am enrolled in another tribe, this is where I am from,” Byers said. “My heart is here. My people are here.”

The warehouse filled quickly with odds and ends: shoes, clothing, small bits of furniture, even pallets of vegetables donated by a nearby Hutterite community.

Byers was particularly concerned about her elderly father.

“To have an 82-year-old father out there fighting a fire was hard and you can’t get there fast enough,” she said. “And my brother sacrificed his house to save my dad and my nieces. He lost everything. That’s the donations we’re taking back to him.”

Those displaced by the fire are staying with friends and family as the Spokane tribe’s Indian Housing Authority and tribal leadership hammer out a long term plan. Only three of the 14 homes lost were insured. Some will rebuild, others have already decided to relocate.

The tribe is requesting monetary donations to help defray temporary housing costs.