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'Psychological First Aid' Team Deployed To Washington's Biggest Wildfire

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
The Okanogan Complex wildfire burned these mobile homes and pickups near Omak, Washington.

The incident command for Washington’s biggest wildfire requested a mental health team to help people in Okanogan County. A national nonprofit called Green Cross has responded to the call.

Master social worker Dan Casey said his group is there for local residents and fire camp volunteers who feel worn down or traumatized by the Okanogan Complex fires.

“The mental health part of this is just, ‘Slow down the thoughts.’ Focus on it. If I can work with them for a while, we’ll talk about any good things that are happening and focus on that,” Casey explained. “Then just let them know it’s all normal, natural. You’re not going nuts. Other things are going to happen. You’ll process this. There’ll be something else coming.”

Casey’s team set up a “psychological first aid” center in office space donated by a printing shop in Omak, Washington. One simple tip he offers to relieve stress is to practice slow and deep breathing.

Green Cross is located at 208 Main Street S. in Omak. The temporary center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. initially, which should expand to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. when more social workers and counselors arrive.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.