SUMNER, Wash. - More residents are evacuating their homes after the Sumner Grade Fire expanded to about 800 acres burned. The people in the Sumner and Bonney Lake communities are embracing the families who are dealing with the crisis.
Staff with Sumner High School and Maple Lawn Elementary School collaborated to host a food donation drive on Wednesday. Staff members sent a blast of emails and social media posts Tuesday evening and was overwhelmed with the community’s answer to their call for help.
“Sumner-Bonney Lake, yeah, this is what they’re all about. Always has been,” said Jessa Doyle, who is planning to evacuate her home.
“I call it small town America where we just come together. And even though people are in crisis, other people step up to the plate and they just fill the needs,” said Kassie Meath, Sumner High School’s principal.
Car after car, dozens of people stopped by the high school to drop off loads of food and water. They wanted to show support for first responders, and families who’ve been evacuated or lost power in the brush fire.
“We can literally see the flames from our house. The smoke, orange and black. It’s crazy!” said Doyle.
Doyle and her family live on the edge of the evacuation area. They picked up their free meals, Wednesday, before returning home to finish packing and evacuate for safety.
“I know just how quickly things can turn around on a dime. One gust of wind and it’s in the top of the trees and they don’t know it yet. So, yeah it’s extremely nerve-racking waiting to find out what’s going to happen,” said Doyle.
The lunch break brought some relief for families who have been without power for the last couple of days in the smoky, hot conditions.
“Emptying the fridges, the freezers, lots of ice to try and maintain things because we still have no power,” said Doyle. “We have drinking water and we can make ice water at home, just trying to maintain in the house and stuff. Keep the house closed up to keep the heat out and the smoke out.”
Some donors said they opened their homes as a shelter for families.
“We’ve taken a few people in, just some of the ones that have been evacuated,” said Rich Kumar, who donated goods to the food drive. “Seems like the community can come together and find a way to set aside differences and support the needy.”
First responders gave Governor Jay Inslee a tour of the damages in Bonney Lake Wednesday afternoon. Inslee announced he is signing a proclamation to help provide some financial support to those who have nothing left but the clothes on their backs.
The governor praised the hard work of firefighters and first responders in the Sumner Grade Fire. Inslee said it’s so fortunate no one has been hurt. He believes it’s a testament to the professionalism of first responders and to the public following the evacuation notices.
He said, however, they're still more work ahead and more people need to be responsible for doing their part to prevent future fires.
"What can we do to mitigate this risk? We know we have to fight climate change, but that's going to take some period of time. Number one, all of us can be as cautious as possible. And this is where all of us have some role. Almost all of these fires we believe were human-caused in some dimension. So, reducing our activities that could possibly cause even a spark around patch of grass is the most important thing we can do right now. So, campfires is the most obvious thing to avoid, but even chainsaws and target practice and activities that can cause a spark,” said Inslee.
The governor said it’s great to see Washingtonians wrap their arms around communities impacted by the fires. That’s exactly what the Sumner and Bonney Lake communities wanted to do by offering free meals.
“I just hope it brings a little bit of happiness. It’s such a hard time right now and we just need to keep being kind to one another,” said Meath.
“I can’t say enough for what they’re doing and the help that we’re getting,” said Doyle.