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Calif. volunteer pilots fly medical supplies to Oregon for residents, firefighters

EUGENE, Ore. (KTVZ) —A flying armada organized by volunteer pilots flying private aircraft on Saturday delivered 100,000 KN95 respirators from Direct Relief’s California-based humanitarian distribution center to residents and firefighters in Oregon’s worst-hit fire zones. 

The airlift also included an array of medications and supplies that Direct Relief packages as kits explicitly designed to address health conditions most often associated with wildfires and evacuations. The wildfire kits can treat up to 750 people, including firefighters battling the blazes. 

Items include inhalers for people with respiratory diseases, antibiotics for dermal and ophthalmic injuries, irrigation solutions, and wound care items for minor injuries and lacerations, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. 

From California to Oregon 

The volunteer pilots from the California Pilots Association Disaster Airlift Response Team (CalDART) and Angel Flights West loaded their planes at Santa Barbara Airport Saturday morning with Direct Relief-donated material before departing for Eugene, some via secondary staging areas at Northern California airports. 

“Hopefully, the rain expected this weekend in Oregon will bring much-needed moisture to the area,” Levi Maaia, a volunteer pilot and flight operations coordinator for CalDART based in Santa Barbara, said Friday. “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.” 

In Eugene, local volunteers with Reach Out WorldWide, including firefighters and health workers, received the supplies to oversee distribution to sites including the Evacuee Distribution Center at the Masonic Lodge, the 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." 

Ongoing Wildfire Response 

Saturday's emergency deliveries followed other recent deliveries from Direct Relief in response to requests from Oregon health facilities and local Oregon organizations dealing with concurrent health and safety risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of historic wildfires, which include power outages, mass evacuations, and exposure to fine particulate matter in the air that increases overall health risks for vulnerable people.   

So far this wildfire season, Direct Relief has 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. 

"We will do whatever we can to help out and stand with our neighbors in Oregon know from experience how utterly devastating these fires are for people, families, and communities they affect," said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe. "The airlift today, which CalDART members organized rapidly and are doing at their own expense as volunteers, is a wonderful example of what these tough times can use more of -- people stepping up, pitching in, and doing what they can in service to others who need some help.  We are deeply grateful to each and every one of them." 

About Direct Relief 

Direct Relief, a California-based nonprofit disaster relief and medical assistance nonprofit organization, responds each year to wildfires and other emergencies in both its home state and throughout the U.S. and has done so for decades. Funded entirely with private charitable support, the organization is a longtime partner of the State of California through its Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), serves on California’s Business Operations Center (BOC), and coordinates its wildfire response activities with the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA). 

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Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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