Northwest Credit Unions Mobilize to Support Wildfire Victims

Photo from The OregonianCindy Aston hugs her neighbor, Todd Quinn, after she lost her childhood home in the neighborhood of Antoine Creek outside of Chelan, Washington in the firestorm on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. (Sy Bean/The Seattle Times via AP)

Destructive wildfires are raging across Oregon and Washington. A fire near Twisp, Washington claimed the lives of three forest service firefighters yesterday, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown activated the state’s National Guard to help fight that state’s fires.

The Canyon Creek Complex fires have already destroyed at least 36 homes and damaged 50 others. It currently threatens another 500 structures in the area, and authorities said the actual toll is likely to climb as crews continue to assess damage in the coming days. More than 70 structures have been destroyed in Washington’s Chelan Complex fires, which are burning in several areas around Lake Chelan.

The credit unions of Oregon and Washington are mobilizing their Northwest Credit Union Foundation (NWCUF) to provide financial support and relief to victims of the fires. The Foundation has created three relief funds—one for the Canyon Creek Complex fires in Oregon, one for the Chelan Complex fires in Washington, and a general fund to be directed where it’s most needed. It has seeded the two area-specific funds with $5,000 each and is collecting donations from the credit union community. All funds will be donated to the relief efforts of the Red Cross in Oregon and Washington.

Click here to donate and join the relief efforts.

Old West Federal Credit Union, which has a branch in John Day, Oregon—a town impacted by the Canyon Creek Complex fires—has turned itself into a hub for donations from the community. They have set up a donations account for local residents to directly benefit residents of Grant County who have been impacted.

“There were two fires that basically blew up at the same time,” said Ken Olson, Old West Federal’s President and CEO, who watched as flames lept perilously close to his own home over the weekend,  “creating a literal firestorm that traveled several miles down both sides of Canyon Creek in the space a few minutes. Many residents literally fled for their lives with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few mementos, as their homes were consumed in a matter of minutes.

“It is heartbreaking to see our friends and neighbors lose their homes,” Olson continued, “and as a true community financial institution, it is Old West Federal Credit Union’s social and moral mandate to put our financial, emotional and physical resources to work in helping those who have lost so much recover from this tragedy. We are accepting donations from the local community that we will pass directly on to the fire relief efforts. And I would ask and encourage every credit union in the Northwest to consider donating to the Northwest Credit Union Foundation’s Wild Fire Relief Fund.”

Old West Federal is also putting together a loan fund for affected community members to help cover things like temporary living, insurance deductibles, and the like. “The loan will have delayed payments, a subsidized interest rate, and more relaxed underwriting criteria,” said a statement on their website. “Also, if you have a loan with us now we can arrange skip-payments and other accommodations you might need.”

Jamie Dedmon, Managing Director of the NWCUF, said that Old West Federal’s response is indicative of credit unions’ deep rootedness in and commitment to their communities. “In hard times like this,” said Dedmon, “credit unions are essential partners for members to recover from disaster and get their dreams back on track as quickly as possible. It pains all of us to see the devastation these fires are creating. But we are proud to be part of a credit union community that responds quickly and generously to the community members whose lives have been impacted.”

Northwest credit unions, their employees, and their members are encouraged to donate to the NWCUF’s wildfire relief funds. Click here to learn more and donate.

The credit unions of Oregon and Washington not only improve their members’ lives, they are foundational to the entire Northwest economy. Learn more here.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

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