Rob Bowers, who lives near the small town of Brewster, witnessed a fireball race past the front of his home. While his property sustained little damage, he endured the subsequent week without water and electricity. He came to La Milpa Laundromat in Brewster , WA, where the Red Cross was offering free service. “My clothes still smell like smoke,” he said.
Many unanticipated problems can arise when a wildfire hits and residents are forced to evacuate their homes quickly and with few possessions. In the small communities of the Methow Valley, a week without electricity, drinking water and phone service only further compounded the crises. One issue that rose quickly to the top was a giant, collective pile of dirty laundry.
"There's no water, people can't shower and they need clean clothes to wear to work,” explained one longtime resident from Carlton, WA. While some Red Cross shelters offered showers, communities without laundry services were reliant on towns that had Laundomats. The demand was enormous. Long lines formed. The heat was overwhelming. Frustrations mounted.
"The impact of each disaster is different and the lack of laundry became a serious unmet need in these small communities,” said Kari Strain, a Community Partnerships Volunteer of the Apple Valley Chapter.
Going to a Laundromat also added to the expenses residents were struggling to cover in the wake of the fire. With a generous donation from CenturyLink, the Red Cross was able to offer 3 hours of free laundry services in Twisp and Brewster. The Red Cross plans to do the free laundry services two more times, on Thursday, July from 5pm until 8pm and on Saturday, August 2nd from 5pm until 8pm.
"There are limited resources and we needed to be creative and take a non-traditional approach to the problem,” Kari added. “Together, we the cooperation of local businesses, we found a solution.”