Gebbers Farms of Brewster, Washington, has sent a truckload of supplies for residents who lost their homes in the Taylor Bridge wildfire near Cle Elum, Washington.
Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, said he received an appeal at the weekend from volunteers helping people affected by the fire who needed sturdy boxes for sorting donations, packaging supplies for those in need, and storing items until needed.
Gebbers Farms responded immediately and sent a truckload containing 4,800 apple cartons and lids, a case of packaging tape, 20 tri-wall bins, and 28 boxes of Extra Fancy Premium Fuji apples. The supplies were delivered to the FISH Community Food Bank in Ellensburg by Monday morning.
The fire, which began August 13, has burned more than 23,000 acres (about 36 square miles) between Cle Elum and Ellensburg. About 70 homes have been lost, and hundreds of people were evacuated. Residents were allowed to return to check on their homes last Friday.
Cass Gebbers, president of Gebbers Farms, said he felt it was important to help out. "We just thought this is the right thing to do. It's not about the cost of what we donated. It's about helping those people whose lives have been disrupted."
As a rancher as well as orchardist, Gebbers has been affected personally by forest fires. He's lost timber and cattle, but never lost a residence or personal belongings that could never be replaced. "It's all about trying to help people," he said. "Some day it could be you or me."
On Monday, Wenatchee cherry growers Kim and Troy Toftness also delivered donations to the fire victims and volunteers. Troy said when they saw news on television about the fire, it reminded them of an occasion when their property was threatened by a grass fire and the firefighters worked to put it out.
"They're doing the same job there," he said. "It's hard work and they're working in the heat and wind."
The couple still had some Sweetheart cherries on their trees so, with the help of small crew of workers, they picked the fruit and drove to Cle Elum with three bins containing about 1,000 pounds of cherries. Troy said they were told that the volunteers had never received donations of cherries before. Some were made available for the firefighters after they came off duty.