SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A squadron of volunteer pilots took off from Santa Barbara Airport Saturday morning to deliver 100,000 KN95 respirators to residents and firefighters in Oregon’s worst-hit fire-zones.
The masks are being delivered alongside medications and supplies from Direct Relief’s California-based humanitarian distribution center designed to address health conditions most often associated with wildfires and evacuations.
Direct Relief said their medical kits include items like inhalers, antibiotics and wound care. The kits can reportedly treat up to 750 people, including firefighters battling the blazes.
The pilots, made up of volunteers from the California Pilots Association Disaster Airlift Response Team (CalDART) and Angel Flights West, left the Santa Barbara Airport around 8 a.m.
They plan to land in Eugene, Oregon.
“Hopefully, the rain expected this weekend in Oregon will bring much-needed moisture to the area,” said Levi Maaia, a volunteer pilot and flight operations coordinator for CalDART based in Santa Barbara. “I’ll be keeping a close watch on the weather and smoke conditions as I plan my flight from here to Eugene in our Cessna.”
Once in Eugene, local volunteers with Reach Out WorldWide, which include firefighters and health workers, will receive the supplies and help distribute them to sites including the Evacuee Distribution Center at the Masonic Lodge, Lane County Public Health Department, Glide Revitalization, the Medford Expo Center, and more.
"Having lived in Oregon and having so many friends and ROWW volunteers up there directly affected by this fire, it's really personal for us to be able to help out,” said Cody Walker, CEO of Reach Out WorldWide. “Especially the rural communities - they're strong and they're resilient - but right now they need help. Huge thanks to Direct Relief for answering this plea and assisting ROWW in a big way to get critical supplies to those who need it now."
So far this wildfire season, Direct Relief says they have supported more than 30 health centers, public emergency response offices, and county health departments across California, Oregon, and Washington with more than 70 deliveries of protective gear, respiratory aids, ophthalmic supplies, tetanus vaccines, and other requested medicines and supplies.
The wildfires blazing across Oregon this past month have burned more than 470,000 acres and caused many to evacuate and hundreds to lose their homes.
"This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state's history," Oregon Governor Kate Brown said during a press conference on Wednesday.