Snoqualmie Valley Steps up to Feed Loch Katrine Firefighters

On October 16th, Snoqualmie Valley residents were alerted to the Loch Katrine Fire. In heavy old-growth timber, the fire was North of Snoqualmie inside the West boundary of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

The next day, reports started circulating on social media that firefighting crews were being spotted at the local Forest Service Ranger Office and hotels, including The Hotel America on Snoqualmie Ridge.

North Bend resident Ashley James, an artist and recent transplant from Issaquah, happened to stumble upon several of these crews while doing her job dropping off supplies for an event at the hotel with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).

James has served the military population for close to ten years after learning about the death of her best friend’s husband in Afghanistan. A former army spouse herself, at one point, she came very close to joining the military but gave up on that dream for personal reasons.

Says Ashley, “I guess to make up for that, this is my way of giving back to all of those who step up where others may have stepped down.” Jones has worked with the WWP for five years as a recreation therapist, where she helps facilitate a five-day adventure-based workshop for veterans to help improve their quality of life using the outdoors.

She feels it’s imperative to preserve the outdoors as much as possible so that we can all share its beauty. She noted that many of the folks she works with fought to keep us safe, and it also takes very strong and resilient people to do the work the firefighters are doing. She felt she would be doing a disservice to veterans everywhere if she didn’t step in and try to help.

James put up a Facebook post about speaking with firefighters at the hotel to brainstorm ideas with the community about helping them while they helped us. Laurie Hay, Director of Sales & Marketing at Hotel America, stepped in with a great idea to create a message board where people could drop in cards, signs, and letters of encouragement for the firefighters.

Keri Estes and her husband Jim, former American Airline employees, moved to North Bend part-time 3 1/2 years ago to help with family and be closer to their daughter and her family who live in Snoqualmie. She saw Ashley’s post on Facebook and knew she could certainly add her support. Says Estes, “I know it’s their job, but I just felt like we could give a little and make their time here in our valley a little nicer.”

Initially, when inquiring with different agencies about how to help the firefighters, it was unclear if support was needed. Many people who first stopped by the ranger station headquarters were told no help was needed or talked to officials who didn’t know the answer to their questions.

Estes and James grew up in households where public service was encouraged and giving back was a way of life, so the pair persisted in finding new ways to ask questions and not taking no for an answer.

By Wednesday, October 19th, the effort was starting to gather steam, and Living Snoqualmie got a message from Estes updating us on all the local efforts to thank the fire crews, asking if we could help spread the word. The answer was “of course,” and we posted a post for all our readers to see.

At this point, the community involvement caught fire and MORE people got involved. The movement grew into receiving cash donations from individuals that could provide support for purchasing meals and other items.

Wednesday night, using those contributions, Keri and Amanda ordered 22 pizzas & 15 salads from Mod Pizza and provided a $300 credit, including $100 from Gary Skiba, for the firefighters at No Boat Brewery. The meal finished with six dozen cookies from the North Bend Bakery.

After communicating with Hays at the hotel, the first wave of food was planned for 6 pm and the second wave by 8. Estes left the hotel at 6:30, a little worried they were giving a dinner party that no one would attend! However, when her husband returned at 7:30 for round two, all the salads and pizza were gone, and round two disappeared in short order.

The next day, many local businesses chimed in on the Facebook post wanting to lend their support. Snoqualmie resident Thomas Alexander at The Plateau Club in Sammamish heard about the movement on Living Snoqualmie from his wife Pamela and volunteered to cook a hot meal.

Alexander, a former firefighter in Minnesota, runs the food services at the private country club in Sammamish. The club has approximately 400 members, a golf course, a swimming pool and tennis courts. They also cater for weddings and other social events.

Thomas and his wife are active volunteers who try their best to better the community. They cook meals for the homeless shelters in Snoqualmie and Fall City, donate to the Food Shelf, and volunteer at Echo Glen Children’s Center. Pamela started a program at the center called “Edible Schoolyard,” which teaches the kids to plant, harvest and cook from the garden. The pair believe the kids will learn skills that could help better their lives upon release.

The always charitable Snoqualmie Casino also pledged lunch boxes, buffet vouchers and a hot dinner each night for as long as needed. Not only did the casino set up dinner each night, but their employees delivered lunch boxes to the Hotel America, North Bend Motel, Mt. Si Motel, Sunset Motel, and the Snoqualmie Fire Department.

Casino Advertising & PR Manager Tarah Smigun said, “We’re so appreciative to all the fire teams working so hard in our state to get these wildfires under control. With the Lock Katrine Fire only miles from our valley, we wanted to do something to support the brave men and women that are working so hard to keep our communities safe and save our forests.”

Now indeed a community-wide effort, Trail Youth brought cold brew, as did Vintage Baristas, along with scones. South Fork offered meal discounts, and pies were purchased using donated funds from Chickadee Bakeshop, who also dropped off goodies early on at the hotel.

On Thursday evening, I decided I had to see what was happening at the hotel. I got there just after all the food arrived, and there was SO much. I intended to stay for a brief time, take some pictures and go home. However, after meeting Keri “never-take-no-for-an-answer” Estes, I was all in.

The firefighters slowly trickled in and seemed surprised to see the feast awaiting them. Keri and I stationed ourselves at the front door exclaiming to every new face that their “Mother called, said they were too skinny, and they needed to eat.” Estes’ flight attendant training was apparent as she worked the room to make every person feel at ease. A few attendees even remarked that they all loved talking with different crews while they feasted.

It quickly became apparent that the valley’s charitable nature was more significant than the number of firefighters, so we began to call valley first responders. Soon, in addition to the fire crews, we had happy police and hospital workers eating the excellent food provided by so many.

That first night ended with me skulking around the Snoqualmie Fire Station and hospital at 9 pm, looking for a way to drop off giant containers of still-hot pasta for those who may not have been able to come. The following two nights were equally as successful, with leftovers filling the Snoqualmie Valley Shelter freezer.

Snoqualmie Valley peeps, you are VERY impressive! In addition to all the monetary and food support from local businesses, posters, signs and cards were brought to the hotel from North Bend, Timber Ridge & Opstad Elementary schools, the Discovery School in Fall City and local Boy and Girl Scout Troops.

The last fire update states, “Fire activity on the Loch Katrine Fire has been limited to smoldering by the recent rain showers, cooler temperatures, and high-elevation snowfall. The main activities on the fire now are repair, monitoring, and mop up.” 

So, the fire crews are slowly checking out and moving on, but the Snoqualmie Valley can be very proud that we took good care of those helping us. Give yourselves a well-deserved pat on the back!

*The list of those who contributed to this effort was LONG. So, if I missed anyone, please let me know, and I’ll add you to the story

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  • Thank you for sharing the follow-up on this story. I love hearing how the community helps out.

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